Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Canapés, Party Food and Lunchbox Treats the Healthier Way (includes Thermomix instructions)

Do you despair of party food being a sea of bloat-inducing pastry and breadcrumbed, bread-based foods, and yearn for delicious treats and nibbles that aren't going to induce an attack of indigestion?


Well, here are some of my favourite recipes for entertaining, including some completely grain-free tasty nibbles, plus additional links to more of my recipes which make great party food and canapés, and ideas for even more!


And the best thing of all - most of them can be made the day before, so no need for last minute panic - you can spend the day pampering yourself, then throwing a few fresh bits together and setting it all out for your guests to enjoy.

So, pictured above are (from left to right, in traditional fashion) smoked salmon and cucumber cups, crab and tarragon stuffed baby tomatoes, celery and blue cheese barquettes with walnuts and red pepper canapés with a Greek salad topping - recipes below, and more!

Scroll down below the first four canape recipes for a whole host of ideas that won't upset your stomach, including skewers with salads, lettuce cups, gluten free finger foods and even sushi!

Friday, 26 December 2014

Piccalilli with Pears and a Hint of Red Chilli (includes Thermomix method)

The perennial English mustard pickle favourite - punchy, crunchy piccalilli is perfect with pork pie, cheeses and cold meats all year around.


Having a kitchen helper or two will shave lots of preparation time from the recipe (whether they're smaller versions of yourself, or a clever appliance you can plug into the wall!), however it's all worth it for the amount of jars you'll end up with, which you can share around the family and friends (or hoard all for yourself if you're a complete piccalilli fiend!).


You'll end up with around three metric tonnes of piccalilli... no, just kidding, but you will need a pretty mahoosive pot to mix it all together with at the end: e.g. a 5 litre stock pot will do it - or use two large pans - or alternatively you can easily halve the quantities in this recipe. The whole recipe will make 4,800 to 4,900g piccalilli, so have plenty of jars ready to go - and it will easily last a year or more in sterilised jars.

How much it makes - smallest jars 326g
It's your choice whether to make this a chunky piccalilli to have as a side to cheddar, pork pie, ploughman's salad etc., or whether to cut it more finely, so you can have it as a sandwich pickle. I tend to cut mine on the finer side, so that it can be enjoyed as a side, and in lovely doorstep sandwiches. Makes a fabulous gift, and has a much more tasty and refined flavour than the bought jars of piccalilli which can be rather astringent from the vinegars used in them, or packed full of sugar.


Cranberry Sauce with Port and Orange (includes Thermomix instructions)

Delicious served as a condiment with a roast turkey dinner, on the side of cold meats, or in a baguette with soft brie, and maybe even a little bacon, or with turkey, ham and stuffing!


Cranberry sauce isn't just for Christmas, so why not make more of this deliciously tart and tangy sauce! This luxury version is enhanced by the flavours of port, orange and a hint of star anise, and as well as the traditional foil for a rich turkey dinner, it is the perfect partner to rich and creamy French cheeses and cold meats.


This yields about 1.1 to 1.2 litres of sauce, and it will keep unopened in the fridge for many months (mine usually happily lasts up to a year, or more!) if sealed in sterilised jars, as well as keeping a good few weeks after being opened. Makes a lovely gift, too. Around 50 calories per tablespoon.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Bejewelled Festive Fruity Mincemeat (includes Thermomix method)

A rich mix of colourful dried fruits, festive spices and slivered almonds, fragrant with orange and spiked with brandy


For the uninitiated who may be daunted by the idea of eating sweet meat pies, worry not - mincemeat generally stopped containing actual meat about halfway through the last century, although from the 15th century onwards, it was exactly what it said on the tin! Now it's usually a heady mix of dried fruit, spices, distilled spirit, and frequently suet (which is often vegetarian now too), and sometimes mixed peel and nuts.


The great thing about mincemeat, is that it keeps really well, frequently for a year, and sometimes another year after that (some people revive it with another glug of brandy stirred in, or whatever spirit is to hand). It's most commonly used to make 'mince pies', and can also be used inside festive 'strudel' type pastries. My preference is to make it into mincemeat stars (inspired by the Finnish festive star-shaped pastries, Joulutorttu, which are filled with plum or apricot jam and look so pretty) which I started making many years ago and have now become something of a family tradition. If you can make this a couple of weeks ahead of using it, the flavours will develop really nicely, but if (like me) you frequently end up fire-fighting everything you need to do in the week (or couple of days!) before Christmas, then don't worry - I've made it and used it on the same day, and it still tastes fantastic! This quantity will fill two large 800g jars (or an equivalent volume of smaller jars) with a tbsp or two left over.

Spiced Braised Red Cabbage (includes Thermomix method)

A really delicious way of cooking red cabbage, with warm spices and fruity notes.


This is perfect as a side dish to compliment game, pork, duck, turkey and even sausages - and it's brilliant served with Christmas dinner too! This will make a good quantity (it should feed eight to twelve easily, more if part of a large meal with other vegetable side dishes), and if frozen in food bags with the air squeezed out, it will keep for months and months in the freezer.


If you have leftovers in the fridge, they're also nice cold with sliced roast meats, cheese, pork pie etc. It re-heats perfectly, and is therefore great to make the day before, or even well in advance and freeze, if you're cooking for a hungry crowd and want to minimise preparation and cooking on the actual day!

You'll need a large dish with a lid to cook this - preferably pyrex or earthenware, and it will be a lot quicker to prepare the ingredients if you have a food processor with a slicing blade (or see Thermomix method).

Calories, for those counting -129 for a twelfth.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

No Fail, Deliciously Thick and Creamy Thermomix Yoghurt

Perfect results every single time, with only two ingredients and yoghurt so thick you can stand your biggest, heaviest spoon up in it!


Are you fed up of playing 'yoghurt roulette'?

Disappointed with thin or sloppy home-made yoghurt? Getting grainy results, or finding you end up with more whey than yoghurt? 
Well here's how to get the perfect result every time with only two ingredients - just milk and a yoghurt starter!

Having a few yoghurt fails myself when I first started making my own in the Thermomix was what prompted me to do a bit of research on why, and then perfect my method in order to get the same result every time.


Served with fresh raspberries, a drizzle of honey and toasted almonds

This is my second post on making yoghurt, as the first one was quite long because it included reasons why your yoghurt could go wrong, and how to make it using various methods. So after being asked to provide some recipes to an e-magazine, I decided to blog a straightforward and short set of instructions (well, short for me!) of how to make it in the Thermomix - if you want to see the longer version, which includes how not to make it, straining it to make Greek style yoghurt (although the yoghurt you will get using this recipe is so thick, that step is unnecessary), and making it into 'yoghurt cheese' and some of the science-y stuff, have a look here.

The other equipment I recommend using for perfect, no-fail yoghurt every time, is an Easiyo to incubate it in, and some kind of thermometer or temperature probe to check when your milk has cooled down to the right temperature before adding your yoghurt starter. Both these things are pretty inexpensive, yet essential, and you will have saved the cost of them in making your own yoghurt after just a handful of batches, and continue to save - I save 80% on what I would pay for two 500g pots of my favourite brand of Greek yoghurt every time I make a litre, which is a lot! The bacteria are also incredibly good for your gut health, so it's well worth having a go on both counts. If you're counting calories, it will be pretty much the same as the calorie count per 100ml/g as the milk you use, give or take a calorie or two.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Creamy Peppercorn and Brandy Sauce - Thermomix Version

This is our absolute favourite sauce of all time to have with steak, so it was about time I wrote up my recipe for the Thermomix!


It's also good with pork steaks, or even chicken breasts, but for me, this is complete 'steak dinner' perfection served with chunky chips, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, and peas (or petit pois in our case!) and of course, a perfect medium rare steak. Throw on some crispy onion rings if you're going to really push the boat out! If you haven't got a Thermomix or you really love setting fire to your sauces (seriously!), then worry not, my original recipe is here, and if you want instructions on how to cook the perfect steak sous vide in your Thermomix (however you like it cooked, and whether you have a TM31 or a TM5), you can find them here.


This makes enough sauce to serve four generously (it yields around 350ml so possibly six - I'm just incredibly greedy with this sauce because I love it so much!), and you can also freeze leftovers, which re-heat very successfully with a vigorous stir at the end. If you would like to cook your steak sous vide, you can put the sauce aside to keep warm while you cook your steak, or re-heat, and it will be quite happy. Lay some greaseproof paper over the top to stop a skin forming, or just give it a vigorous stir before serving.


Serves four, takes 20-25 minutes to cook, 164 calories per serving (but you're not seriously counting with this, are you??) ;)

Easy Pea, Ham (or Feta) and Lettuce Soup (includes Thermomix method)

A twist on classic flavours, with a variety of textures in this delicious soup

I like to use petit pois in this, because I prefer their more tender texture and sweeter flavour, and to make life easy, you can use bought ham (or chicken/vegetable) stock if you like, and pre-shredded / pulled ham, which is also easily available. Otherwise, sear then gently simmer a ham hock in a couple of litres of water for a couple of hours, with a carrot, leek, celery stalk and a few fresh herbs (parsley. thyme, bay) plus some peppercorns and skim off any scum and strain. Then you can shred the meat from the hock to add to the soup.

Pea Ham and Lettuce Soup Thermomix

For vegetarians, use vegetable stock, and substitute crumbled feta cheese and a handful of chopped fresh mint for the ham (as per the ingredients list) for an equally delicious soup.

Serves eight, 121 calories per serving - one of those soups which is delicious in any season!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Chocolate Orange Liqueur - Orange Optional (includes Thermomix method)

A decadent after-dinner treat, delicious poured over ice, or into coffee...


You can choose to make this with or without the orange flavour, and have 'just' a chocolate liqueur if you prefer - or you can tart it up with a few drops of mint essence, or a splash of frangelico for a hazelnut / praline flavour.

            Thermomix Chocolate Orange Liqueur

I mean... it's chocolate - what could possibly go wrong?!

So anyway, however you fancy your chocolate liqueur, here's how to make it! It will yield just over 1,200ml, so if you use 40% spirits to make it, then your end result will be around 12% alcohol by volume (abv), and if you use scrupulously clean equipment to make it, and store in sterilised bottles in the fridge, it should keep for a couple of months (if it lasts that long!!). If you give this to people as a gift, you will have their undying love and loyalty for the rest of your life (possibly).

A couple of 'retro' ingredients, but the tasters agree it's rather good! And it's under half the price you'd pay if you bought chocolate liqueur ready made!

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Softest White Bread Rolls - (includes Thermomix method)

These are lovely, soft and pillowy bread rolls - delicious warm and buttered on the side of a hot bowl of soup, or as burger buns, or encasing juicy thick slices of sizzling butcher's bacon...


I had to take one for the team here - me and wheat don't really get on - and especially white flour: that's a killer for me! However, for me, part of showing other people how to cook things, is finding the perfect way to cook them, and making it as 'no-fail' as possible for everyone (without fancy equipment). So it had to be done with my nemesis, white bread and all things white-bread-related! You don't have to make these with a Thermomix, you can mix and knead the dough by any method you choose, until the dough becomes soft and elastic (in the machine of your choice, or around 10 minutes or so by hand), and carry on from there.


For me two of the foremost 'danger' points of making your own bread (before you even get to the cooking part!) are using water which is either too cold, or too hot for the yeast ('lukewarm' can mean different things to different people!), so that it either doesn't activate, or you kill it - and then after the kneading part, the main area for failure is putting your bread somewhere which is the wrong temperature to rise.

I have always put my bread into the combination / convection oven to rise, as there is a setting for 40C which rises it perfectly. However, not everyone has an oven they can set to 40C, so it was time to get out of my comfort zone in rising bread (for the first time ever), and try a way of rising it which anyone else could do, along with making sure the water for the bread was the right temperature.

I took tips from a number of sources to put together a recipe which worked perfectly including the recipe for bread rolls from the TM5 demonstration, the 'Bestest Bread Rolls Ever' recipe from the Australian recipe community, my own preferences when making bread, and tips on getting the bread to rise from some of the lovely, helpful people on the Facebook group, 'Thermomix Owners UK'.

So, with thanks to all of the above, here is the amalgamation of ingredients and method to produce some rather delicious bread rolls, which I hope are as great a success for everyone else who tries them, as they are for us!

Makes 8 rolls, from 251 calories per roll, potentially in under 1 hour! 5 -10 minutes active time, 20-30 minutes rising time, and 25 minutes cooking time. [Calories in square brackets]

Monday, 20 October 2014

Beef Madras - Slow Cooked (with Thermomix instructions)

Without exaggerating, I can honestly say that I was gobsmacked by the success of this dish!


Unfortunately, I can't really take the credit for it either (I wish I could!), aside from offering tips gleaned from my own experience, and lots of warnings about what might happen to the meat in the Thermomix if it was cooked on the wrong setting etc.! Well I knew the flavours were going to be good, as we've been cooking our version(s) of beef madras for years, loosely based on an authentic recipe which has evolved over the years, but would probably originally have been cooked with hogget (sheep) or lamb; but this one is down to my lovely man, Mike. Don't worry, the non-Thermomix way of cooking it is included below, for once (rather than on top). But this is a bit of a breakthrough in Thermomix land, so it has to come first on this occasion!


I have resisted cooking anything which should be slow-cooked in the Thermomix ever since I've had one. Don't get me wrong, it's an absolutely amazing machine. It does things you can often only dream of doing without one. However, previously I wouldn't have dreamed of slow-cooking in it, much like I wouldn't dream of stir-frying in it either (although I do have ways around this for certain dishes which I think can work). I'm a bit anal about cooking (well, you might have noticed...!), to say the least and for me, slow cooking occurs in a large, earthenware, ceramic or cast iron vessel in a low oven (much like stir-frying generally occurs in a nice hot wok where I can toss the food around to my hearts content).

Ordinarily, I have great faith in Mike's cooking - which is well deserved as he is a fantastic cook (I don't think I could live with a 'can't cook, won't cook' type of person who didn't love good food!). But I was on tenterhooks for him, expecting at best tough meat that needed to go into the oven for an hour or so, and at worst, babyfood. Especially after the 'crime' caramels...

Anyway, it didn't happen. Fantastic curry happened, and without further ado, here is the recipe!

Serves six as a main meal on its own, or more with other dishes. 655 calories per portion - worst case scenario (for a sixth) - however this is based on full fat stewing steak, plus every tablespoon of oil you skim off at the end is about 145 calories, so if you're counting, you can get this down a fair amount! [Calories in square brackets]

Rustic Wholemeal Spelt and Linseed Loaf (with Thermomix instructions)

A small family-sized loaf, perfect to throw together for lunch with soup, or a selection of sliced meats and cheeses, or whatever you fancy really... making fresh bread always makes lunch feel special for us!


Spelt is an ancient form of wheat which is not gluten free (and therefore not suitable for coeliacs, or those who are intolerant of wheat or gluten), but which many people find easier to digest than wheat. The addition of linseeds adds extra nutrients and healthy omega oils to the bread.


You don't need a Thermomix to make this loaf, just mix together and then knead for ten or so minutes until the dough is elastic, as you would with ordinary bread (or put the dough in a bread machine or similar to knead it for you!), then follow the instructions from putting the dough into the tin onwards.



We really enjoyed this yesterday, with my cream of celeriac soup - I have to confess, we didn't wait for it to cool down, and butter may have dribbled down peoples' chins along with soup - what a delightful bunch we are!!




Cream of Celeriac Soup with Fresh Thyme and Truffle Oil (includes Thermomix method)

The delicious, earthy flavours of celeriac, thyme and truffles compliment each other perfectly in this beautifully smooth and sophisticated soup


There's just something about the flavour of certain root vegetables. They have a real, rich, earthy depth to them which is complimented by so many other flavours and celeriac is possibly my favourite of them all.


I chose to use fresh, young thyme leaves in this - adding most at the beginning to meld in with the other flavours during cooking, and then a few more leaves at the end to add that beautiful fresh-picked taste, together with just a little scattering on top, and a luxurious drizzle of extra truffle oil on the top (well, I do have a big bottle bought for me last Christmas by my children which I realised needs using up!). It would have been amazing to have shaved some fresh truffle over the top, and maybe a little blended into the soup right at the end, but one must save these luxuries for special occasions (or find an amenable pig and an appropriate area in the woods to find one's own truffles...still, there's nothing stopping you doing this if you want to impress your guests!).

I think crispy pancetta, would make a delightful topping too, sprinkled on right at the end. To be honest, I was *this* close to doing so, but I thought it might not look quite so pretty and refined in the photo - but go on... do it to yours, it will taste delicious! (Unless you're a vegetarian, of course!).

Makes around 2 litres of soup, hence 8-10 servings. From 63 calories per skinny portion (for a tenth using 300ml extra stock at the end instead of cream and milk), to 152 calories for an eighth of the full fat version. [Calories in square brackets].

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Tom Yum Gai / Goong (Hot and Sour Chicken / Prawns) two ways in the Thermomix TM31 or TM5

This fragrant and healthy, hot and sour Thai soup is deliciously simple and tasty, and what's more you can make it into a filling meal with the addition of rice or noodles


You can choose to take full advantage of the Varoma dish, and steam a whole chicken over a bowl of simmering stock which you then use for your soup base (using around half of a chicken to feed four people, giving you enough leftovers for another meal or two, plus a carcass for stock/broth), or you can use raw or pre-cooked chicken breast or thigh, weighed out to suit you, whilst steaming vegetables in the Varoma tray to add to your soup (if cooking a whole chicken, you do this whilst it rests).


You can also make this with prawns instead of chicken if you prefer, adding them right at the end to make Tom Yum Goong, the popular prawn version of the dish (you can even make the stock up from the prawn shells, cooking them in a little oil until pink, then adding a litre of water and simmering for 20 minutes before straining), or make a vegetarian version with vegetable stock.

A more recent version of the soup, Tom Yum Nam Khon involves adding some coconut milk to the finished broth (usually when making with prawns), and a small amount of toasted dried chillies, if you fancy something a bit creamier - just splash some in at the end - you could also use 100g creamed coconut, or to taste, whizzed in at the end to avoid diluting the soup unduly.

Serves four to six, from 206 calories per serving for a quarter portion (served between four) made with home made curry paste and chicken breast and vegetables as stated. Add on 165 calories per portion, per 50g raw rice. [Calories in square brackets].

Tom Yum Paste (includes Thermomix method)

A fragrant blend of Thai aromatics, and the perfect base for hot and sour Thai soups


No need to buy expensive jars with questionable additives and ingredients in them, you can whizz up your own healthy, fresh paste in minutes from just six ingredients and the taste is incomparable!

        

This makes enough to make soup (or a meal) for four to six, in 800ml to 1 litre of stock. It is easily doubled or tripled (just blitz for a little longer), and will keep in the fridge for a day or two, or freeze for more long term storage to preserve the flavour, as it does not contain oil or salt to preserve it.

[Calories in square brackets, average 84 calories per quantity for 4-6]

Juicy Whole Roast Chicken in the Varoma (or Steamer) - Thermomix TM31 and TM5

Have you tried cooking a whole chicken in your Varoma (steamer) yet? Skeptical? So was I! But read on, pleasant surprises were in store, and my chickens won't be going back into the oven to roast from now on...


Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm pretty particular about my chicken, and to put it politely, I'm really not a fan of dried out chicken breast - you might have seen just how serious I am about this, if you've seen my blog on how to cook chicken breasts sous vide (includes how to do it in a Thermomix, of couse!).

          

So, it took me a fair few pokes to actually reluctantly give this a go. I was finally persuaded to have a go by the proclamations of it being deliciously moist chicken, by a few members in the Thermomix Owners UK group on Facebook who had given it a try (Facebook has a lot to answer for!). I wasn't really expecting great things, so I have to say it was a very pleasant surprise when I actually went for it! I mean... steamed chicken? As you can see from the photo, if you wish to serve it as a roast rather than using the meat for other dishes it can have a final 'browning' but only needs 10 or so minutes in a high temperature oven, just to give the skin that lovely golden crispiness, giving it that delicious roast-chicken flavour, but with infinitely moister meat! So I had a bit of a tinker, and came out with a method and timings to suit us in the TM31, and then in the TM5 too...

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Thermomix TM5 - An Overview, and Free Cookery Demonstrations in England and the UK

Have you seen this machine and its predecessor, subtly gracing the kitchens of Masterchef and Saturday Kitchen and wondered what exactly it is and what it does?


Maybe you've just started to notice it being featured in the National Press here and there, since the release of the lastest model recently, the TM5 - perhaps a review, or an article? Or maybe you've even heard of them being used in professional kitchens, in Michelin-starred restaurants?

Maybe if you're a regular visitor to my blog, you've wondered why some of my recipes say "includes Thermomix method" in the title, with some short instructions for people with these futuristic machines below the 'normal' method?

                 


Attention: If you click on play, be prepared for quite a futuristic Star Wars kind of experience, with Very. Dramatic. Music. It might even bring a lump to your throat, or make you feel sudden and unexpected powerful emotions. I can't be held responsible for this - I'm just trying to show you what it officially looks like. It's a bit intense and there's a hint of thematic elements and mild terror...

Well, this is why I include Thermomix instructions, and this is why I have one (well, two now, as it happens!). It's my little kitchen not-so-secret secret. (If you've already got a Thermomix TM31, and you therefore already know how amazing they are and what they can do - feel free to scroll past my eulogising in the next paragraph or three to the bits about The 'New Thermomix TM5' below - you'll see the photo!). 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Crab and Spinach Ohitashi with Mixed Mushrooms (Thermomix Method)

A deliciously light and tasty Japanese dish, perfect as lunch, or an elegant starter, or as part of a selection of Japanese dishes.

Although it is a beautiful looking dish, it's actually incredibly simple to cook and plate up. You just add the ingredients for the broth to the bowl, with the mushrooms and spinach in the varoma and press go! If you would like to cook this without using a Thermomix, see here for my original recipe with a method on the hob. This serves two to four people (timings for both in method, and if you're counting calories, it's a mere 121 calories per person!).

            

Feel free to tweak this dish to suit you. I've converted this version to Thermomix with a dashi broth substitute I came up with for Japanese soups, as I am aware that most people won't be making their own dashi broth, and the majority of 'instant dashi' powders and concentrates you can buy contain MSG as an additive. MSG does actually occur naturally - the white residue you find on seaweed, i.e. Kombu (kelp, one of the two ingredients dashi is made from) is naturally occurring MSG but I don't think most people want to add it to their food, or include it in chemical form, although opinions are mixed. Also, I thought it might make a nice use of a light bone broth, for those who make them.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Spicy Chorizo, Chickpea and Spinach Soup (includes Thermomix method)

A delicious, hearty and filling soup, with spicy, smokey chorizo flavours, nutty chickpeas and fresh spinach.


Chorizo really is a star ingredient, packed full of flavour which is released in the oils when you cook it, which is enhanced in my spicy chorizo, chickpea and spinach soup by the fresh garlic, chilli and smoked paprika in it (which means that even if you chose to leave out the chorizo, to make this soup vegetarian, it would still have the delicious chilli, smoky paprika and garlic flavours in it). There are many different varieties of chorizo - some cured and eaten as they are, others for cooking, with regional varieties containing subtly different herbs and spices.

            Thermomix Spicy Chorizo Chickpea and Spinach Soup

And then there's the question of pronunciation. Is it 'choritho', 'shoriso', or 'choritso' or something else - a certain feisty Spanish lady, Maria at Feisty Tapas is quite adamant it's 'cho-ree-thoh', and I'm certainly not going to disagree with her!

This hearty soup serves six - and if you have leftovers they will freeze beautifully - or the next day, you could transform them into a meal, by adding a tin or two of your favourite white beans to them (e.g. butterbeans, or cannellini etc., rinsed and drained) or some roasted vegetables and topping with a chunky, pan-roast cod fillet. Delicious!

177 calories per serving, if you're counting. [Calories in square brackets]

Friday, 19 September 2014

Moroccan-Spiced Superfood Stew

A delicious and hearty dish, full of flavour - perfect as a vegetarian main or a tasty vegetable accompaniment to meat or fish.


Packed full of 'superfoods' (or in other words, a great bunch of healthy vegetables and legumes, full of nutrients - I'm a sucker for alliteration, and a title including all the ingredients turned out a bit too long!), this Moroccan spiced squash, chickpea and kale stew is thickened with lentils (now can you see why I shortened it to spiced superfood stew?); and the combination of pulses and vegetables gives a wonderfully balanced dish which is a meal in itself, or can be topped with crumbled feta for a contrasting flavour or texture, maybe with a handful of toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds, and a scattering of pomegranate seeds?

           Moroccan Spiced Superfood Stew

For the non-vegetarians, you could go with my super easy Harissa Chicken, for a quick or healthy twist (recipe here) - or for a weekend roast dinner, rub some of that harissa paste into a shoulder of lamb, and roast at gas mark 3 for 3 or 4 hours, then pull apart and serve on top, scattered with some fresh coriander...

         

Serves 6 to 8 (as a hearty all-in-one side topped with protein, or served with extra vegetables on the side), from 179 calories per serving, if you're counting (if using one tin of tomatoes and serving eight. If serving six, for a bigger appetite, it's  239 calories per serving. If using a second tin of tomatoes, you need to add an extra 13-17 calories per serving). [Calorie counts in square brackets]

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Egg Fu Yung (Chinese-Indonesian Omelette) with a Sesame-Ginger Sauce

A delicious, quick and easy dish, popular in America and the UK - 'gravy' optional!


Although not itself authentically Chinese, Egg Fu Yung (also known as Egg Foo Young, Egg Fo Yong etc.) is a Chinese-American dish which is derived from an authentic dish from Shanghai, known as Fu Yung Egg Slices, made with beaten egg whites and ham slices, or minced chicken if you go further north. You can add your choice of various vegetables, as well as various types of seafood or meat if you like too (see notes below for ideas).

          Egg Foo Young recipe

In this version, I've simply added bean sprouts, straw mushrooms and spring onions (scallions) to keep it simple and quick, but use up whatever you fancy!

In the UK, it is not usually served with a sauce as such, but in America, they frequently serve it with 'gravy'. Whilst I had a little difficulty with the notion of serving a Chinese-style omelette with gravy, I do try to be open-minded where food is concerned, so in a nod to a transatlantic friend of mine, I did make a sauce based on a light chicken stock - which I'm afraid I then just couldn't help flavouring with soy, ginger, oyster sauce and toasted sesame oil. I will put my hand up, and confess that I actually rather enjoyed it, and it gave the dish quite a pleasant new dimension - so thank you, Audra, I'm glad I gave it a whirl! ;)

Obviously, the sauce (or gravy!) is entirely optional, but you might just surprise yourself and like it too!

245 calories per portion for the Egg Fu Yung, serves two as a light lunch, or a meal with other/side dishes.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Skinny Spring Rolls

Crispy and delicious vegetable spring rolls for a fraction of the calories they'd be if you bought them, and simple to make too...


Easily doubled for a crowd, and not at all difficult to make - my children helped me rolling these up! Feel free to play around with the fillings and flavours - I've put some suggestions at the bottom of this post - whether you add cooked prawns or chicken with sweet and sour, or maybe some duck and hoisin sauce, there are all kinds of different flavours you could add!

          

And if you want something to dip them in, you can make my five simple Chinese dips in under five minutes! The recipes are here. If you want to make my gluten free version (which are even skinnier at only 35 calories each), the recipe is here.

Makes 20 spring rolls, 43.5 calories per roll, 218 calories for 5 rolls.

Crispy Vegetable Spring Rolls - Gluten Free

Not only is this recipe gluten free, it's also a healthier version of crispy spring rolls, which doesn't involve deep-frying (and it's easy to make, too!) - what's not to love?


Spring rolls are often a guilty pleasure for many of us - or worse still, a greasy disappointment, heavy on the stodge, seeping out oil with every bite, and low on flavour - worse still if you buy the supermarket efforts. And if you're eating gluten free, even worse - you probably can't get hold of any!

        

However, salvation is here - a fresh and crispy tasty vegetable filling (and you can use this as a spring board, and add cooked prawns, shredded chicken or duck, char siu pork [watch out for gluten - my recipe to make your own is here] or whatever else you fancy to it - see the Notes for further suggestions!), with rice wrappers, quickly baked with a mere brushing of oil and egg, until crispy on the outside and hot and juicy on the inside! With a whole variety of very simple dips to serve them with (see here for five very simple Chinese dips you can whip up in under 5 minutes, as in the photo, that compliment them beautifully!), you can't go wrong, and they're very easy to make - no pre-cooking necessary for the filling!

Easily doubled for a crowd, and not at all difficult to make (the photo above is of rolls made by my children, aged 9 and 11 at the time - as in the photo on the left!) - tasty, crispy, gluten free spring rolls at a fraction of the calories you’d get in those from a restaurant or shop!

Makes 20 small spring rolls, 35 calories per roll, 172 calories for 5 rolls. I don't recommend making fewer, larger rolls, as you're more likely to get 'soggy bottoms' or splits in the rolls. You can shallow or deep fry the rolls if you prefer, instead of oven cooking - but obviously they will be considerably more calorific! If you don't need to go gluten free, you can make my Skinny Spring Rolls with filo pastry instead, another low calorie healthy option.

Simple Chinese Dip Selection

Put this selection of Chinese dips together in literally just a few minutes! Great for spring rolls, dim sum, satay skewers, wontons and more...


There's no need to faff about with these, a minute's chopping, and a couple of minutes mixing together, and you're there!

          

A selection of quick and easy dips which will serve eight people (we had more than twice as much as we needed for four people eating spring rolls!) and can be put together in under 5 minutes! 167 calories in total for all of the dips, if you're counting, so about 21 calories per serving if you share nicely. Everyone loves the peanut dip, so you might want to make more! If you're a fan of sweet chilli sauce and want to add that into the mix too, my recipe is here.

Chunky Nicoise Dressing - includes Thermomix method

Full of Nicoise flavours, this chunky dressing goes amazingly well with seared tuna steaks, roast or barbecued lamb and you can skip the anchovies if you like to make it vegetarian, for a delicious dressing for a hearty, warm potato and egg salad.


This is what I love to top a good seared tuna steak with, on top of steamed French beans and potatoes, with a side of leaves and tomatoes in my take on Tuna Nicoise Salad (see here for recipe). Anchovies, garlic, olives and tomatoes are also great partners to lamb, and this is delicious spooned over freshly grilled or barbecued lamb rump or leg steaks (or even sliced roast lamb), served with roasted Mediterranean style vegetables and baked baby potatoes with olive oil, sea salt and garlic (just par-boil first for ten minutes or so, and stick in a dish in a hot oven for about half an hour).

        

Is your mouth watering yet? (Mine is!). You can easily double this, and it will also keep in the fridge for a few days. It's nice as a dip for warm crusty bread too, (oh how decadent!) and good warm or cold - although my preference is for warm or room temperature - not chilled.

This quantity serves four, at 142 calories per serving.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Seared Tuna Nicoise Salad (includes Thermomix method)

A modern take on salade niçoise, topped with a seared tuna steak and a delicious, chunky dressing packed with bursts of niçoise flavours.


Contrary to popular belief, tuna isn't actually one of the core ingredients of a nicoise salad - anchovies are more likely to frequent the more authentic presentations, and the two wouldn't usually be served together. Cooked vegetables (e.g. potatoes and green beans) are also not part of an authentic salade niçoise recipe - fresh and raw broad beans are the way to go. I remember thinking I'd been 'done' when I ordered a nicoise salad in France a couple of decades ago, because they'd 'missed out half the ingredients'. But, what is this? Next I'll be telling you there are no boiled eggs either!

        Salade nicoise

No, don't worry there are. However, there are as many recipes for salad niçoise, as there are for chilli con carne no doubt, and it's just as contentious! Even the modern Niçois break the 'rules' and serve tuna and anchovies together. So, if they can, so can we, and while we're at it, let's break a few more and keep everybody happy and call it Nicoise Salad instead! (I doubt anyone Niçois would be reading a recipe for it in English anyway - especially if they saw a photo with potatoes and green beans on it - sacré bleu!!). With this recipe, you can choose whether to serve it warm or cold - I like to have my potatoes, beans and eggs warm, which makes it a great dish for winter or summer.


So after our first little harvest of French beans this year (lovingly grown by the good man), together with a motley collection of different tomatoes, hastily picked according to ripeness (rather than variety!), I was inspired to blog my version of Nicoise salad, which has evolved over the years. Mine involves serving a seared tuna steak over the warm steamed green beans and potatoes (optionally tossed in a little olive oil), with lettuce and cherry tomatoes on the side topped with a fresh a boiled egg (of course!), and a wonderfully piquant chunky dressing, with the olives, anchovies and basil within it, warmed through until the anchovies melt into the dressing and finished with capers and diced tomato then spooned over the top... fancy joining me?
You can play around with the salad ingredients (or the dressing), of course, according to what you have and love - add peppers, cucumbers, radishes or whatever you have to hand, use rocket leaves, and even try it with the fresh broad beans if you want to see what you're missing out on! I have a love of fresh tuna, just seared on the outside and rare in the middle - cook your tuna the way you like it, or if you prefer, use a good quality (dolphin-friendly) jarred or tinned tuna (in oil, if you're going to do it the more Gallic way).

Serves two people, easily doubled. 470 calories per serving (328 calories without the dressing, if you want to use a bought dressing, or just have a drizzle of balsamic for a few calories). Halve these quantities for a sophisticated starter at 235 calories [Calories in square brackets - it will of course be more if you add more extra virgin olive oil for tossing potatoes in and drizzles!]

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Harissa Chicken with Spiced Puy Lentil and Tomato Stew and Steamed Green Beans - All-in-one (universal) Thermomix Meal

Tender chicken on a bed of lentils and tomatoes, rich with aromatic spices and fresh herbs, served with fresh green beans.


All in one meals don't have to mean rice or potatoes in the internal basket every time, and this healthy and delicious lentil and tomato stew is packed with different flavours and textures and is cooked at the Varoma temperature making it perfect for steaming vegetables and harissa-spiked chicken (or fish) at the same time.

       Harissa chicken and lentil stew thermomix

The harissa chicken couldn't be simpler, with only 4 ingredients, and with the lentils, the Thermomix does all of the hard work for you! The lentil dish in itself is vegan, so if you wanted to make this into a vegan or vegetarian main dish, you could miss out the chicken, and add extra vegetables, and top with some crumbled feta (not vegan), and/or roast some spiced squash or sweet potato wedges and red peppers in the oven.

Harissa-spiced lamb, or firm white fish steaks or salmon would work equally well with these flavours, but lamb would probably be better grilled, griddled or barbecued, and you would need to put the fish on for less time.

Servings
Serves up to six (chicken and green bean servings can be to suit you, see ingredients below - you can freeze or chill the extra cooked lentils if you make this for less than six (which is what I do), but I don't recommend reducing the quantities etc. as they are calculated to have enough liquid to cook in and steam the chicken and vegetables, and may dry out and/or burn).

Calorie information

171 calories per serving of lentil stew (between six - or you could divide it between four more hungry people!); 173 calories per serving of harissa chicken, and 23 calories per serving of green beans (total 367 calories per serving). [Calories per portions]

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Easy Harissa Chicken (includes Thermomix instructions)

This is so simple, it's barely a recipe at all - unless you make your own harissa paste!

However, it was a part of an all in one dish which I posted - the rest of which happened to be vegan, hence I thought I'd post the chicken part separately! And if you do want to make a manageable amount of harissa paste just for this recipe, you could do worse than check here for a recipe from my good man!

       

However, it's not quite so easy when you make the own, so you can cheat and use a ready made one if you like - I used 'Al'fez' brand for this easy version (as it has no artificial ingredients), which is widely available, to test out how hot it was - don't worry, it won't blow your brains out, but it is, of course a little spicy. So my apologies, this isn't really a recipe (or not what I'd class as one), but it was part of a bigger dish and delicious on top of my spiced Puy lentil and tomato stew/'mélange' (from 171 calories per portion) served with steamed green beans (add 23 calories per portion for an 80g serving each). Serve it with anything you fancy - something Middle Eastern would be good - if you're going along with the 'easy' theme, cous cous is very quick and easy to prepare - add vegetable stock, serve with a nice big salad. My salad Shirazi with pomegranate seeds would be a delicious side to this too, and it's only 38 calories a portion!

Serves two, easily doubled (of course!). 173 calories per serving, if you're counting. [Calories in square brackets]

Spiced Puy Lentil and Tomato Stew

A delicious lentil dish, with a wealth of flavours - have it as a side, a lunch dish, or make it into a main with your choice of toppings.


This is a fantastic way to eat lentils - and also incredibly versatile. The spices and fresh herbs make it a great standalone dish for lunch, or you could top it simply with some crumbled feta, or add spiced, roasted cubes of  butternut squash or sweet potato wedges to make it more of a hearty vegetarian main or some steamed vegetables. 

           

We enjoyed it served with steamed green beans, and some really easy harissa chicken (see here for recipe, 173 calories per serving) - or lamb, or a firm white fish steak would work equally well with these flavours. You could throw in more vegetables at the beginning if you like, such as diced carrots and red peppers - and even add more stock to make it a lunchtime soup - I've used Puy lentils, but if you prefer, you could use plain green lentils (however you will need to increase the cooking time as per instructions on the packet). If you don't have all the spices, just play around a little with what you've got.

Serves six as a side dish or a light lunch, or four as a main with vegetables on the side. 171 calories per serving for a sixth serving, 256 calories for a quarter, if you're counting - feel free to slosh in an extra glug of olive oil if you're not, or even dress with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil when you serve. [Calories in square brackets]

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Perfect Steak - Cooked Sous Vide (including Thermomix Instructions for TM5 and T31)

Whether you enjoy your steak rare, medium-rare, or medium cooking it 'Sous Vide' is the way to get perfect results every single time...


When I met my partner years ago, I cooked him steak 'sous vide' in the early days, and it was the first time he'd ever had it cooked that way. In those days, I didn't have any high end kitchen gadgetry - no vacuum sealer, no sous vide machine and no Thermomix. It was just a couple of steaks in re-sealable sandwich bags with the air pushed out (via water displacement - sink them in a bowl of water almost to the top before sealing) pegged over a stock pot full of water which I'd heated to 55 degrees celcius, and carefully monitored with a sugar thermometer for an hour, while I did other things in the kitchen, then seared in a pan once it was ready. A little labour of love, but worth it for such tender and juicy steaks (well, they do say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach!).

Sous Vide Steak Thermomix

He's pretty much had steak cooked sous vide ever since that night, he was so bowled over by it - so I'm very glad I don't have to hover over a stock pot any more, and I'm lucky enough to be able to have the technology in my kitchen to do it other, easier ways now (including him cooking it)!

And there are really only four things you need to do, to cook your 'perfect' steak...

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Sous Vide Salmon in the Thermomix

Simply the most delicious way of cooking salmon I've encountered...


The thing about cooking things 'sous vide' (which translates to 'under vacuum' - although don't worry, you don't need a vacuum sealer for this dish) is that by keeping the temperature of the water you're cooking in constant, the internal temperature of the food is controlled, and you can cook it through at the perfect temperature all the way through without the outside being over-cooked, or the inside being raw or cold.

Sous Vide Salmon in the Thermomix

This salmon is cooked 'a la Heston Blumenthal' - the flesh is going to be of a soft and yielding nature; heated all the way through, but rare. This is the time and temperature for the perfect textured salmon, according to Heston Blumenthal's tastes and I love it, but it's not for everyone, so if it doesn't appeal then cook it at a higher temperature for longer (e.g. 55-60C for medium rare to medium - although if you want it well done, then it's not really worth cooking it this way, there are plenty of other methods - steaming in a parcel is a good one, to retain the best moisture in well done salmon while you cook rice or potatoes in the internal bowl, and vegetables in the Varoma tray).

I love to serve it with a warm new potato, green bean, caper and lemon salad with flat leaf parsley - once the sous vide cooking is done, you could add any herbs or spices you liked, before the quick pan sear (which is optional, but highly recommended). For my instructions for how to cook the perfect steak sous vide in the Thermomix (TM5 or TM31) have a look here - you won't go back! And to *safely* cook chicken breasts sous vide, look here.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Joojeh Kabab - Persian Chicken Kebabs with Lemon and Saffron (includes Thermomix instructions)

More delicious flavours for chicken - something just a little different, perfect for the barbeque or grill.

The zesty marinade helps keep the chicken tender and moist while cooking, and the subtle flavours infuse the chicken with Middle Eastern flavours, whilst the saffron gives it a delicious golden colour.

Persian chicken kebabs

If possible, cook over a barbecue to really capture the authentic smoky flavour of this dish - if not, you will still get incredibly tasty and moist chicken if cooked under the grill or on a griddle. Ideally marinate this the night before, or several hours in advance - although if you're pressed for time you could probably just get away with an hour or two.

Joojeh kababs, (aka Jūje-kabāb) are a popular dish in Iran, commonly served with rice or lavash bread (Persian staples), along with grilled tomatoes and peppers. We enjoyed them with some quinoa and lentil salad with roasted vegetables, sumac and fresh herbs (recipe here), and a deliciously refreshing Persian salad Shirazi with pomegranate.

Serves four, at 166 calories per serving. [Calories in square brackets, 1/4 marinade calories used as the majority left in the bowl once chicken is threaded onto skewers].

Calorie information
Serve with a portion of salad Shirazi (38 calories) and a portion of my quinoa and lentil salad (an eighth for 174 calories) for a total of only 378 calories for the whole meal.

If you're keeping the carbs down serve with a 200g portion of cauliflower rice instead of the quinoa salad for just 76 calories (you could stir in some chopped fresh coriander, mint and parsley with a squeeze of lemon for less than 10 extra calories, and bags of flavour!), and a total of 280 calories for the whole meal including a serving of salad Shirazi.

Salad Shirazi with Pomegranate Seeds

This is one of those dishes whose simplicity belies how utterly amazing the combination of ingredients tastes...


Which is perhaps why it is pretty much the national salad dish of Iran. Hailing from the city of Shiraz, this Persian salad is to Iran, what Kachumber is to India.

Shirazi Salad

With the same base of cucumber, tomato and onion, salad Shirazi is flavoured with citrus and mint. I've added fresh pomegranate seeds to my version, for delicious little pops of sweetness with a crunch, and the fresh mint brings it all together beautifully.

It's good to make this a little in advance and leave it to chill for an hour or so, to allow the flavours to mingle. It's great as a side dish to pretty much any Persian meal - we had it on the side of some delicious Joojeh kababs (Persian chicken kebabs with saffron and lemon - recipe here) along with my Persian-inspired quinoa and lentil salad with roasted vegetables, sumac and fresh herbs.

This serves four people as a side dish, at 38 calories per serving. [Calories in square brackets]

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Quinoa, Lentil and Roasted Vegetable Salad, with Sumac, Lemon and Fresh Herbs (includes Thermomix tips)

Enjoy a taste of the Middle East in this delicious and healthy salad full of different textures and flavours.


Courgettes and peppers are roasted with cumin seeds and sumac then tossed with quinoa, nutty lentils and a refreshing mix of coriander, mint and parsley and dressed with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.

          

Makes a fantastic side dish to grilled or barbecued meat, fish, poultry or halloumi, or even good as a light lunch on its own. We enjoyed it with Joojeh kababs (Persian chicken kebabs in a saffron and lemon marinade, my recipe is here) and salad Shirazi with pomegranate seeds.

Serves six to eight as a side dish. 174 calories per serving for an eighth, 232 calories for a sixth. [Calories in square brackets]

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Perfectly Rich and Creamy Peppercorn Sauce for Steak

This is my perfect peppercorn sauce. I don't want to even admit how many years I've been making it, but I hope you like it too!

Out of all of the recipes I've ever posted or shared, this is probably the one I make the most. It's evolved over the years, and poured over juicy steak is the go-to pick-me-up treat of choice in this house. And there's no skimping allowed with this - a treat is a treat! Click here for the Thermomix version of this recipe.


Normally, I just cook it intuitively. I've done it so many times I don't weigh or measure anything, it's just all done by sight and taste and memory, because I make it the same way every time - but this time, I recorded it, and measured as I went so that I could share it. Part of me likes to think that when my kids have grown up and left home (hopefully not in the too near future!), this blog will be a little reminder of home, and some of the lovely food we've all shared together that they can recreate their favourites from (when they're not sneaking back for dinner!). I have to confess though, on the rare occasions we treat ourselves to steak, sometimes we hold out and wait until after they've gone to bed to have it (sorry kids!)... ;)

So, what to have this with? My personal recommendation is with your favourite cut of steak, cooked your favourite way (for me, that would be medium rare - we like to vacuum seal them, and put them in the water bath at 56.5C for an hour or more - more time makes no difference - oil lightly, season then just sear for a few seconds on each side on a searing hot griddle to get some 'barking' flavour), served with chunky chips or sautéed potatoes, and 'petit pois' peas (my preference over garden peas) with a grilled flat mushroom and grilled tomato. For complete overkill, add a few crispy onion rings in there, and you won't be able to manage pudding! Did I miss anything?

We like our sauce, we do - so this will give you a very generous amount. Probably enough for four people really - as you can see in the photo, you get a whole ramekin full to yourself (I'm a 'dipper', rather than a 'pourer'!). However, running out of sauce to go with your dinner is a heinous crime indeed - and you don't have to use it all up, it will freeze and re-heat gently, although you might want to give it a bit of a whisk when you re-heat it, to make sure it's smooth.

On this basis, I'm giving you a 'serves two'. Plus, I only have about 5 ounces of steak, and I know some people put away double that! Calories? Seriously? Oh OK then, call it 310 per serving with maximum cream. Well, I did say there was no skimping... [Calories in square brackets, spoilsports]

If you love my creamy peppercorn sauce, why not try my rich Madeira sauce with wild mushrooms with your steak next time?

Bulgogi - Korean Barbequed Beef (includes Thermomix instructions)

This is a delicious way of cooking beef on a barbeque - the marinade makes the meat really tender.


Listed at number 23 of the world's 50 most delicious foods (from a reader's poll in CNN Go - have a look here if you're intrigued as to what else is on it) - if you're a lover of all things beefy and barbecued and keen on Asian flavours this is something you might want to try!

         

If you fancy something a little different, but not too 'out there', this is a great way to cook rump* steak. One of the tastiest cuts of steak, it is also from a hard-working muscle which means it is not the most tender steak - however in this dish, the Asian pear in the marinade really tenderises the meat. And on top of this, it's packed full of robust Asian flavours - garlic, ginger, soy and onions, with a hint of sweetness (and all you need to do is blitz up all the ingredients for the marinade in a food processor or blender - so it's easy to prepare too!).

Serves four people, at 287 calories per serving.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Harry's Ultimate Vegetarian Sausage Rolls - Nut Free, Gluten Free and Wheat Free (includes Thermomix method)

Delicious, tasty, meat-free sausage rolls - with all the flavourings of traditional English sausages (with options for regional variations!) and none of the pork - which have even fooled some meat eaters!


Named after my son, as I made them for his birthday! From 55 calories per party-size roll. If you or your children (or fellow grown-ups!) love sausage rolls and you want to make them meat-free without doing the usual claggy cheese and onion filling (that becomes rather rubbery and unpleasant once cool); or you haven't been able to eat sausage rolls for years, because you can't eat wheat, or gluten; or you haven't found a decent vegetarian filling you can make, because you're allergic to nuts and other options have seemed bland or mushy...

...or even if you're none of those things, but fancy making some lovely, healthier, home-made sausage rolls without any of the additives or chemicals in bought ones and you prefer to know exactly what you're eating - then these are for you and yours!!


You might, just *might* even find that you prefer these to regular sausage rolls (well, you certainly won't be chewing on any suspect gristly bits, which my son hates)!

I was initially inspired to have a play with textures and flavours for a vegetarian filling by Cyndi O' Meara's vegetarian sausage rolls recipe (which I confess I haven't ever made) but I liked her idea of using oats as a base, with feta cheese as one of the protein and flavour elements. After that, I wanted to make it nut free, and wheat free, and use traditional English pork sausage flavourings in a mixture which I was able wrap in pastry, so it was all experimentation from thereon in, with seeds and spices and herbs and other aromatics and family members being given suspicious blobs of cooked mixture every now and then until the flavour and texture was right!

This quantity makes around 24 sausage rolls (about 4cm long each before cooking, if you're measuring!) with a generous ratio of filling to pastry compared with shop bought - if you use a 500g pack of bought pastry (or double my easy puff pastry recipe) you could easily stretch this to 36 plus rolls (double these quantities if you're cutting them like the mini sausage rolls you get at parties - I like to make mine more generously!).

Calorie wise, if you're counting (now come one, who eats sausage rolls on a day they're counting calories - but it's good to have an idea if you can't resist sneaking one and just need to know!) - they're 55 calories each for half-size mini party rolls, or 110 calories per my larger 4cm rolls, as in the photographs (if you make with my pastry, adjust calories accordingly if buying the pastry - my calories are split down per ingredient, so it should be pretty easy to add it all up, then divide by the number of sausage rolls you make. With this recipe, it's 2,641 for the total quantity of filling, pastry and egg wash - just divide it by how many rolls you make). [Calories in square brackets]

Easy Gluten Free Puff Pastry - (Method for Thermomix or Vitamix or food processor)

There's absolutely no need to dread making pastry (you're not alone, I have for many years!), you just need a fail-safe recipe and you can whip up a batch in minutes, and it's deceptively easy too!


This makes a fantastically light and flaky, (rough) puff pastry, perfect for sausage rolls, pie lids, savoury or sweet tarts or tartlets etc. and you would never even guess it was gluten free. It will rise even more when it's not wrapped around fillings, too!

          

I’m not sure whether a normal food processor will cope with the ice cubes and frozen butter for the pastry (see the paragraph below in italics if you want to have a go with a normal food processor), you will need something high-powered that can cope with frozen food specifically (e.g. Thermomix, Vitamix or similar etc.). 

If you don't have a high-powered food processor, you could make it using super-chilled butter, and iced water instead of ice cubes (add ice-cubes to 65ml of water, and drain off the iced water and measure again when you're ready to use it), but you will need to tweak the technique a little to suit you and your machine.

And if you like the look of these delicious meat-free, gluten free, nut free sausage rolls, click here for the recipe!


Friday, 22 August 2014

Thermomix Chunky Ragù alla Bolognese - with skinny option, and no more mushy meat sauce!

Ragù alla bolognese is a versatile Italian classic, delicious with pasta, or in a lasagne - and here is how to make it using your Thermomix with all of the flavours from perfectly browned meat, and no sloppy disappointing mush - so if you've been disappointed so far, don't give up yet!


Probably one of the most well-known and loved Italian dishes, the ragù alla bolognese is possibly one of the first dishes many of us make once we leave home, in the form of spaghetti (alla) bolognese - which is actually a dish which originated outside of Italy! The Italians tend to serve their ragù (Italian for 'meat-based sauce') in the form of tagliatelli alla bolognese (with flat pasta), or in lasagne alla bolognese, as this kind of meat sauce does not stick well to spaghetti. Honestly? I only learnt that a few years ago, and it was news to me too (as well as the milk thing!) and I've been making it for a couple of decades!

Thermomix spaghetti bolognese
Non-authentic serving suggestion on top of spaghetti! Or stir into tagliatelli to avoid offence.

Back in the day, I imagine most of us when trying to cook our first masterpieces in the kitchen went through a phase where we probably threw onions, mince and a tin of tomatoes into a pan with a shake of mixed herbs, and came out with a tasty pasta sauce, which then evolved over the years. Once outside of Italy, the ragù seems to change quite drastically depending on which country it has 'emigrated' to. Believe it or not, adding bacon/pancetta and herbs is not so authentic, however it's a taste which so many of us are accustomed to, so I've put them in as options (just like 'Mummy' used to make it. Or Dad in my case, who was the main cook). Here is my Thermomix version of the traditional recipe, which is based on all the traditional ingredients (plus a couple of optional ingredients to satisfy modern tastebuds) for a very authentic flavour, including milk (which may come as a slight surprise to a few people, and certainly isn't something I included in my early days of cooking, but is very traditional) which has an amazingly tenderizing effect on the meat, so please do include it if you haven't previously - the difference is really noticeable!

Don't get me wrong, I haven't even tried any of the Thermomix bolognese sauce recipes out there, so I can't comment on them, and this is no reflection on anyone else's recipe. It never occurred to me to do so because it's something which I've been cooking for around twenty years that I'm perfectly happy with flavour-wise (if it's not broke, why fix it, as the saying goes) and a brief look around at a few available (there are so many!) showed ingredients that I don't use in mine, or vice versa - it was just a question of getting mine right in the Thermomix. Mushy, sloppy meat sauce is something I've noticed many Thermomix users complaining of time and time again, and with my first attempts at cooking it in the Thermomix, I could certainly see why. It took a few attempts to get it 'right', and every time I changed the way I cooked the sauce and the meat, the order, the method, but with pretty much the same ingredients each time, and a 'control' batch on the hob going at the same time, to taste it against. On the last attempt (this one), which I swore *was* the last attempt, I finally got it how I wanted it. Phew!

Now, two important points.

Firstly, you will need a pan as well as your Thermomix. Preferably a heavy-based one with a non-stick surface. Just to quickly brown the meat in, in one large piece (as if it was a large rectangular burger - you don't cook it through, just literally brown on one side, flip and brown the other side, then set aside. It will be raw inside.). Shouldn't be a big deal - you can do it while you're preparing the vegetables, or even while they're cooking in the Thermomix, and put it onto a plate when it's browned and set to one side. Well, you didn't want flavourless meat-mush, did you? This took a few different experiments to get right, so I'm really hoping you'll enjoy it as much as we do, and no-one will ever know you cooked it in anything but an authentic manner!

Even less authentic serving suggestion - on top of 'courgetti' / 'zoodles'! Skinny-style. Heinous!

Secondly, you have choices here. Three to be precise, being (a) full-fat, (b) skinny and (c) with extra tomatoes added near the end to give a more tomato-y flavour, and simultaneously cut down the red meat you're eating, cut the calories, and stretch the dish out further (you'll end up with 2 litres of tasty pasta sauce - not bad for 500g mince!). It's far less complicated than it sounds, basically it boils down to: (a) choosing to make a full fat, authentic-tasting ragù, in which case you substitute full fat minced beef and pork (or veal), lubricate with olive oil to your tastes, and if you're using bacon or pancetta, just choose the full fat streaky variety, rather than the low fat options, and minimal oil I've given in the recipe. You don't need me to put those in as options, or calorie count them, because you're not counting! Just use the same weights. Or (b) you can follow the recipe recommendations for lower fat meat and measured oil, and you have a low fat ragù with all the authentic flavours and far fewer calories, that is incredibly tasty and guilt-free. Finally, (c) if the sauce is too 'meaty' for you, or you want to stretch it out to feed more people or have some chunks of tomato in it, you just add one or two tins of chopped tomatoes at the end and cook for a few extra minutes as per the method. This is also the lowest calorie option (from 154 calories).

So a fantastic family favourite, that can keep the healthy-eaters happy too!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Spiced Carrot Magic Bean Cake (includes Thermomix method)

Ohhh these magic bean cakes - they're so addictive...


Whether or not you're eating gluten free (and dairy free and grain free), this is just the most moist and delicious carrot cake! If you do eat gluten free, and you've ever bought any kind of gluten free carrot cake... you'll *know* how absolutely awful they are. Dry. Gritty. Tasteless. And just generally really appallingly bleeeeeuuurgh! (Which reminds me, I still haven't taken back the pack of GF carrot cake slices we bought a couple of weeks ago out of curiousity, and could not eat because they really were that bad... hence the inspiration to make my own. It was actually the first time in my whole life I've genuinely found a cake that bad I've considered taking it back to a shop...)


Anyway, I digress. This is definitely not bad carrot cake (although it might be naughty), it is goooood carrot cake! I made it for my son's birthday and he loved it! Now, I'm no Mary Berry, and so occasionally I may resort to unconventional techniques to get my cakes just as I want them. And I'm always open to tips from those more experienced than I am. But let's face it - who *is* Mary Berry? (Apart from Mary Berry of course, who you can always rely on for amazing recipes and elegant twinsets). Most of us go through life trying our best to avoid soggy bottoms and cracked tops and even more unspeakable things, and winging it along the way - and in my opinion, any tips to end up with a good cake, are good tips!

So here's my recipe for spiced carrot cake, a la magic bean cake. You can leave the nuts off the topping, and out of the cake if you want to avoid them (or substitute for a mixture of pine nuts / sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, roughly chopped, for a nutty texture), and you can use an orange drizzle icing in a lacy pattern over the top if you want to avoid dairy (see options). Plus, instead of making a tray bake cake, you could make this as muffins or fairy cakes / cupcakes, using an appropriate tin lined with cake cases.

Makes 24 portions. 140 calories per portion of carrot cake, plus 37 calories for light cream cheese topping with walnuts (see below), or 46 calories if using full fat cream cheese and walnuts; or an extra 29 calories per portion for orange drizzle icing.

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