Monday, 31 October 2011

Beef & Kidney Pie

Eating healthy wise, I have had the worst week for a long time.  Of course, none of it was my fault, I was just led astray...

It was half term and it started off badly on Wednesday where, under duress, (you know who you are) I took my 5yo to Burger King for the first time after water fun at the leisure lagoon.  Using my iPhone I scanned the WeightWatchers app and decided I was going to be 'good' with a chicken salad at just 2 points with some small fries for another 5. Not too bad for lunch, I thought.  Well of course it is a completely different story when you get there and the smell overwhelms you, not to mention you feel like a complete idiot ordering a salad! So a cheeseburger and small fries later oh and half of my boy's burger (as he didn't like it!)  I knew it was going downhill from there.

Rather than kid myself I was going to be good for the rest of the week, I thought sod it and just indulged, rather wholeheartedly. I feasted on chocolate, cheese, kids leftovers (we all do it sometimes!) naughty Halloween choccie cakes, takeaway pizza at a Halloween/fireworks party, finishing on Sunday in this wonderfully indulgent steak and kidney pie. It didn't end there either as to top it off we had an apple & blueberry crumble for pudding!

I blame the large consumption of red wine for the week on the nursery parents evening where they kindly offer you a glass of wine.  Of course this led to hubby & I polishing off a nice bottle of red with dinner and the week generally progressed to wine with dinner every night.  I didn't even make it to Zumba on Thursday.

The last person to blame in my week of eating hell is my lovely husband. We were on our way home after a lovely morning with the boys, walking through Alice Holt forest. I'd planned to make my healthy cottage pie but on the way home DH put out there that he really fancied a warming steak & kidney pie. A detour to Waitrose and a few ingredients later I was in the kitchen, ale in hand, cooking away.

Now a word on our choice of ale.  Admittedly we are not ale drinkers, although I reckon trying this has persuaded me otherwise, so in choosing an ale we selected Badgers Poachers Choice, a Hall & Woodhouse ale and H&W being one of our customers (Sendster) we thought this fitting. We were not disappointed by our choice as it was rich in flavour and certainly not just for making a good pie!

You'll notice there is no ProPoint calculation at the end of this recipe simply because I couldn't bring myself to work it out!  I should say that the stew I made for the pie was truly delicious, and consumed on it's own with some mash potato or even some crusty bread would actually not be too bad ProPoints wise, but the All Butter Puff Pastry topping just kills your diet.  But you know what? Life is too short to hold back EVERY DAY, so occassionally a bit of puff pastry is really not going to hurt. We are having the leftovers for dinner tonight but I have already binned the pastry and it will be served with brown rice as I am soooo back on WeightWatchers plan today!

You'll need for 4:
  • 1 small to medium sized onion, finely diced
  • 6 rashers of pancetta or streaky bacon
  • 500g topside of beef, cut into small ish chunks
  • 200g lambs kidneys, cut into button mushroom size
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 200g button mushrooms
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried thyme, or a few fresh sprigs if you have
  • 3 heaped tbsp plain flour
  • Seasoning
  • 1 beef stock pot
  • Few dashes Worcester sauce
  • 2 heaped tsp redcurrant jelly
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • Half a bottle (250ml) of Badger Poachers Choice Ale
  • 1 x 37g pack All butter puff pastry
  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  • Olive oil

What to do:

In a heavy bottomed casserole dish, sweat the onions slowly with 1 – 2 tsp olive oil and a knob of butter.  Add the chopped pancetta and sweat for 5 – 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Prepare the kidneys by slicing off the ends and working towards the centre bit, cutting away into large bite sized pieces.

Cut the beef into chunks.  In a food bag, place the flour and a good pinch of salt and ground black or white pepper.  Put the beef into the bag and toss carefully ensuring the beef chunks are all coated.  Then add the beef to the onions & pancetta and stir continuously to ensure the beef does not stick.  Once browned, slowly add the ale and stir continuously scraping the bottom on the pan to a get a smooth gravy like consistency.  Add the carrots followed by the beef stock pot and 750ml of boiling water to the pan.  Add the tomato puree, Worcester sauce, thyme and seasoning.  Bring to the boil and then reduced to a simmer allowing to cook for 1 and half hours.  Half hour before the end add the mushrooms.  If it looks a little dry add some more water.

10 minutes before the end of cooking, heat a frying pan and add a drizzle of olive oil.  Add the kidneys and fry for a couple of minutes on each side on a high heat.  Remove from the frying pan whilst they are still pink inside.  Add the kidneys to the pan.

You can prepare the stew to this point 24-48 hours in advance.  In fact this is a perfect entertaining dish as all this hard work is better done in advance and tastes better the next day!  Bring to room temperature for the next stage or if you have just cooked the stew, allow to cool until it is at room temperature.

In a pie dish or roasting dish, butter the sides and bottom lightly. Place the stew into the dish. 

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to approx 4mm thick or to slightly large then your pie dish.  Using a sharp knife, cut slices off and press along the rim of the dish all the way round.  Brush with a beaten egg.  Then use the remaining pastry to press down on top of the dish.  Using your fingers press the lid part to the pastry around the rim.  Seal using a fork to press together. Brush all over with the beaten egg and finish by using a sharp knife to make a couple of slits in the pastry lid to allow steam to escape.

Bake in a moderate oven (fan 180-190c) for about 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

Serve with your choice of green veg - we had green beans and spinach and some new potatoes.

True comfort food and home-cooking at it's best!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Chicken & Bean Enchiladas

I've always got a pack of tortilla wraps in my breadbin, usually the WeightWatchers brand as they are just 3 ProPoints and make a quick and easy lunch.  We fill them with prawns and salad, or a tuna nicoise type salad or a Greek type salad using light feta cheese. With the weather changing and Winter on it's way, the 'salad wrap lunch' is kind of being abandoned in favour of warming soups. Because of this, I've been left with an abundance of tortilla wraps and as I can't stand wasting anything, I thought a supper of enchiladas was just the job!

This is an ideal make ahead recipe suitable for those days when you need something prepared earlier in the day.  The sauce can easily be frozen so double up and pull it out of the freezer at your convenience. It also goes great with rice!

You'll need for 2:
  • 225g chicken breast, cut into slices
  • Half a can of blackeye beans, drained
  • 3 tbsp frozen sweetcorn
  • 1 red pepper, sliced into small-ish pieces
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 fat garlic clove, crushed or grated
  • 1/2 jar passata
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Couple of dashes of Worcester sauce
  • 4 reduced fat (such as WeightWatchers) tortilla wraps
  • 2 tbsp grated reduced fat cheddar

What to do:

Spray some olive oil in a non-stick frying pan or stir fry pan.  On a high heat, stir fry the chicken pieces until browned all over and remove from the pan to one side.

In the same pan, fry the onion, garlic and pepper until soft.  Put the chicken back into the pan and add the Cajun seasoning and the cumin.  Stir thoroughly and then add the passata, tomato puree, salt & pepper to taste, and finally the Worcester sauce.  Add approx 120ml of water and the sweetcorn and allow to simmer for 10 -15 minutes. If you want to freeze the sauce, allow to cool and then freeze at this point.

Spread a little of the sauce on the bottom of an oven roasting dish.  Divide the mixture into each of the wraps and fold over and place into the dish.  Save a little of the mixture (try to just get the sauce without the chicken pieces) and spread over the top of the wraps.  Finish with a sprinkling of grated cheese. The dish can also be prepared to this stage in advance and then placed in the oven later when you are ready.

Bake in a moderate hot oven (180 fan) for 15-20 minutes until piping hot and golden on top.

WeightWatchers Points Per Serving: 12 

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Italian Sausage & Bean Casserole

DH's family are from Sicily.  We spend ALOT of time eating or thinking about Italian food.  Although I give it a good shot apparently no-one comes close to his Nonna's pasta dishes.   Probably because I'm always looking for ways to reduce the fat or cut the calories to make it less sinful. 

In Sicily we eat Italian sausage with crusty bread and salad dressed in olive oil & lemon juice.  The sausage is usually just pure pork, salt & pepper, sometimes flavoured with chilli or fennel.  But that is pretty much it.  You can pick up good Italian sausages in your local Italian deli and they are really worth trying as the flavour is unique.  Sadly pork sausages are just something I cannot indulge in mid-week when trying to stick to my WeightWatchers plan.

Until now I have yet to find a decent Italian sausage in a supermarket.  I am absolutely delighted to have recently found a gem at my local Waitrose deli counter.  It is not only deliciously tasty with it's fennel flavouring, but is made with 43% veal so is much lower in fat!  Hurrah!  A sausage I can finally enjoy (ahem).  Unfortunately I have yet to lay my hands on any nutritional info, so I have approximated the ProPoint values based on the % of pork and veal that make up the sausage. 

Onto the recipe.  This is one that I have taken from the fabulous BBC Good Food Mag. I usually can't resit meddling with a recipe, but I've got to say I pretty much followed this one.  After reading the reviews, I upped the sausage content to 300g (x3 of the Waitrose Italian sausage) and increased the stock (I used chicken stock) to 500ml.  Instead of serving with crusty bread or mash potato, I added 60g of orzo pasta to cook through with the meatballs to really fill out the meal, negating the need, or the temptation to demolish a whole ciabatta as a side. Ok so maybe I did meddle more than I thought!

You can get the original BBC Good Food recipe by clicking here but my version is also detailed below.

You'll need for 2:
  • Half a large red onion, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • Pinch of chilli flakes
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 3 Waitrose Italian sausages (300g)
  • 1 tin of borlotti beans, drained
  • 1 tin of cherry tomatoes in juice
  • 500ml chicken or veg stock
  • 100g green beans, halved
  • 60g orzo pasta
  • Parmesan to serve

What to do:

Heat a non-stick frying pan or stir frying pan.  Remove the casing from the sausages and break them up into small meatballs.  I got 6 out of each sausage.  Spray with oil and fry on a high heat to brown all over.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the onion, garlic, fennel seeds and chilli to the pan.  Turn the heat down to slowly cook the onions.  Add some salt to help bring out some of the moisture.  When soft add the tinned cherry tomatoes and stock.  Allow to bubble away for a few minutes.

Add the borlotti beans and the green beans.  I prepared everything in advance to this stage and when the meatballs were cool I put them in the fridge until needed.  If you do this just cover up the sauce and bring it back up to a boil when required.

Next add the orzo and a little more stock if need be, but 500ml should be about right.  Add the meatballs and reduce to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 10 - 15 minutes on a low heat so you do not reduce the sauce down to nothing.  When the orzo is cooked through, taste and season accordingly, then serve up with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 13 including parmesan, 12 without parmesan

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Cherry Tomatoes & King Prawn Pasta

I have a problem with cooked tomato skin.  I just cannot bear it.  It ruins the eating experience of a tomato, getting stuck  to one side of your mouth spoiling the delicious flesh part.  Raw tomatoes are less of an issue for me, but cooked ones simply must have their skins removed.  This poses a problem when cooking with cherry tomatoes as de-skinning is time consuming. 

My husband has, on occasion, blanched, cooled and de-skinned, by hand, 1kg of the wonderful datterini tomato (a delicious grape like tomato).  This has taken him several hours.  How nice that he may have the time to do this on a Saturday afternoon with a glass of wine in hand, but for me, a busy Stay At Home Mum (sorta) I need to find a much quicker way of losing the little blighters as spitting them out onto my plate is hardly good table etiquette.

This dish has been in my repertoire for a couple of years.  The tomato sauce can be used in a variety of ways but I love combining it with some king prawns, freshly griddled and tossed in at the end.  Try it with diced roasted aubergine or black olives and capers. Oh and don't forget; Italians NEVER serve parmesan cheese with any kind of fish/seafood pasta, but hey if you like it on your prawns, who am I to stop you?!

You'll need for 2:
  • 350g cherry tomatoes, or a couple of small punnets
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, bashed
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Good pinch of chilli flakes or a fresh chili finely chopped
  • 150 - 175g raw king prawns
  • Glug of white wine
  • Handful of fresh parsley
  • 200g linguine or spaghetti

What to do:

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and saute the onion.  Add the garlic and turn the heat right down so you slowly cook the onions and garlics until soft without browning them.  This will take a few minutes.

Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and add these to the pan with some seasoning.  Turn the heat up to get some heat back in the pan and when the tomatoes start sizzling turn it back down.  Add a pinch of chilli flakes or the fresh chilli and allow to cook gently for 10 minutes or so.  Now for the tomato skin removal.  Turn the heat off and using 2 teaspoons, gently tease the skin away from the flesh.  You can of course completely avoid this step but I personally feel you get a much purer taste if you spend a few minutes doing this.  If the skins don't come away easily then let them cook for a little longer and try again.  I often prepare the sauce up to this stage in advance

Cook your pasta according to the packet instructions in salted water.  Once drained, reserve some of the cooking liquor.

Once all the skins are removed, turn the heat up a little and add the wine allowing it to bubble away for a couple of minutes.  Add the drained pasta and some of the cooking liquor to the tomato mix and toss thoroughly. Stir through the parsley

Meanwhile heat a griddle or frying pan.  Spray the prawns with olive oil and season.  Cook in the pan turning once for a couple of minutes on each side until the prawns are completely pink.

Toss the prawns through the pasta and serve up!

WeightWatchers PropPoints Per Serving: 12

Monday, 17 October 2011

Thai Green Curry with Chicken or Prawns

Oooh I love a good Thai! It's my preference over a Chinese meal any day. Thai food has a wonderful fragrant aroma and the combination of sweet, sour, hot and salty is just sublime.  It's also a great one to prepare in advance and can be re-heated very successfully.

Usually a Thai green curry would be a complete no no on a diet.  A can of coconut milk alone has 18, yes 18 ProPoints!!  That's 3 and a half glasses of wine!!  I know what I would rather have!  My recipe uses the reduced fat coconut milk and just half a can for 2 people.  This makes it only a couple of ProPoints per person but the challenge is to get the full flavour whilst keeping it healthy.  Admittedly you may feel you need more chicken or prawns but if you pack out the veg each mouthful will give you a different taste and texture sensation

You'll need for 2:
  • 200g chicken breast cut into chunks or 200g raw king prawns
  • 1 tsp groundnut oil or any flavourless oil (not olive oil)
  • 2 heaped tsp of Thai green curry paste
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • A few kaffir limes, crushed
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
  • Handful fresh coriander, chopped
  • A few spring onions, sliced
  • Approx 90g fine green beans
  • Approx 90g of mangetout or sugarsnap peas
  • Half a 400g tin of reduced fat coconut milk
  • 150g dried brown basmati rice

What to do:
It's pretty straight forward; heat the oil in a wok or a non-stick frying pan.  Seal the chicken pieces until golden, turning to sear on all sides.  Grate in the ginger and garlic.  Add the vegetables and stir fry for a few minutes.  Add the curry paste, fish sauce, lime juice and stir thoroughly.  Add the coconut milk and turn heat down to a simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the veggies still have a slight crunch to them.   If you find the sauce is reducing too much, cover the pan so the moisture stays in the pan.  It shouldn't take long to cook, perhaps 10-15 minutes.  Quicker than a takeaway

Stir in the freshly chopped coriander and spring onions, just before serving with the cooked basmati rice.

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 13

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Chips. That's All.

I've been a bit unwell recently, stomach bug, generally run-down, tired from running around after 2 boys, blah blah blah.  What do we crave when we are like this?  CARBS!  Nothing else will do.  So for me it's been, pasta, toast, sandwiches, more toast, potatoes, more toast. Oh and some good mature cheddar too.

My homemade potato wedges have been knocking around for years and are always a welcome accompaniment to my homemade burgers or fish.  But my new favourite comfort food accompaniment is chips.  I have found a simple way to cook the perfect oven baked chip with minimum fat.  It's not rocket science, you just need to follow some very simple instructions!

You'll need for 2 as a side dish:

  • 500g baking potato, peeled
  • 1 tsp sunflower or vegetable oil
  • Table salt
  • Pepper if you fancy

What to do:
  • Pre-heat your oven to a hot setting - 220 fan is ideal
  • Slice your potato lengthways into 1cm slices
  • Then cut them into 1cm-ish size chips
  • Place them in a saucepan with COLD salted water and bring to the boil.  You can cover the pan to help it reach boiling quicker.
  • Meanwhile place your best non-stick roasting tray in the oven to pre-heat
  • Once the potatoes have reached boiling, simmer for just 2-3 minutes
  • Drain and leave to steam dry for a couple of minutes.  Let the saucepan dry and place the tsp of oil into the pan
  • Tip the chips into the pan, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and toss everything carefully
  • Open  the oven and keeping the hot tray in the oven (as best as possible!) tip the coated chips into the tray.  They should sizzle slightly.  Ensure they are nicely spaced out.
  • Bake for 20 - 25 minutes turning after 10 minutes and then checking on them every 4-5 minutes until they are crisp and golden brown.
Serve up with your chosen main and lashings of mayo and ketchup!!! Guaranteed comfort food!

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 6

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Tray Baked Haddock with Chorizo & Potatoes

Tray baking is so easy.  You chuck everything in a nice roasting dish and let the oven do it's work.  It's also easy to stick to the same old chicken,veg and potatoes so I thought I would try something a little bit different.  I've had some haddock in the freezer for a few weeks now and I was thinking of how I could cook it differently instead of my usual herby breadcrumbed way.  So with the desire to tray bake with something other than chicken I came up with this dish! 

I've mentioned my fondness for chorizo and just figured this would add another dimension to the dish too.  All in all we were really pleased with this and I will definitely continue to experiment with tray bakes!!

Oooh I almost forgot.  The day I cooked this, I asked my mum to pick me up a bag of new potatoes as she was on her way over to me, anyway she turned up with charlotte potatoes.  This was not met with an over enthusiastic thank-you, but I had no choice but to use them.  I cannot tell you how pleased I was with them!!  They are my new favourite potato and work really well when baked, without par-boiling.  The skins go lovely and crisp and the inside soft and fluffy. Yum.

What you'll need for 2:
  • 2 x 120g haddock fillets or other white fish, cut into half
  • 400g charlotte potatoes, halved or quartered if large
  • 65g chorizo sausage, sliced
  • Courgette, sliced
  • Red onion, cut into wedges
  • Roasted red peppers from a jar, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 tsp olive oil
  • Seasoning
What to do:

Put everything except the fish into the roasting dish, season well and drizzle over the olive oil. Using your hands, rub the oil and seasoning into the vegetables and potatoes really well.  You can add whatever vegetables you like really; butternut squash, aubergine, tomatoes.

Roast for a good 30 minutes on a high-ish oven (190) tossing occasionally.  When you think that's almost ready, move the mix to the edges and add the fish fillets to the middle of the dish.  Season and spray lightly with olive oil.  Return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the fish so check it after 3-4 minutes.

WeightWatchers ProPoints Per Serving: 11