Monday, 18 January 2010

What I've been cooking 1

I've realised that one of the things that has prevented me from writing a lot on here until now has been my insistence on trying a recipe at least three times before I post it. I still think it's a good idea, partly to avoid this blog becoming a list of other people's recipes (the first attempt is usually the most faithful to the source, whereas by the third time, I've often tweaked it a bit), and partly so I knew the recipe was reproducible - not just beginner's luck. However, it's not often that I cook the same dish more than a couple of times before I move on to something else, so not much ends up on here. So, I've decided to post (roughly) weekly lists of what I've been cooking, just to give an impression of what I'm up to - and to remind myself when I have cooked something before, so I can create a post for it later.

This week I'm still on a 1200 calorie diet. I was inspired by a show on Channel 4 that finished last week, and by the fact I've gradually put weight on over the past 18 months. Counting calories isn't the healthiest way to lose weight in the long term, but it can be useful to knock off a few pounds to kick-start a better programme later on. So, some of my choices may seem a bit frugal - I won't be cooking much in the way of full-blown recipes until I finish.

Monday 18th: low-fat babaganoush (char-grilled aubergines, puréed with garlic, cumin, coriander seed, salt, pepper, and a little tahini), served with leftover home-made French bread.
Tuesday 19th: due to commitments, I was out from 7am until mid-afternoon, and then as I'd not slept the night before, I went straight to bed - so no cooking at all! (This is very unusual for me).
Wednesday 20th: my first try of shirataki (konjac noodles), stir-fried with leek, carrot, fish sauce and dashinomoto - not gourmet, but very low-calorie, if rather salty!
Thursday 21st: I marinated a salmon fillet in shiromiso ("white" miso) and sherry, then cooked udon noodles with soy sauce, wasabi and honey, then added the salmon, and some leaves.
Friday 22nd: a day off the diet, so I cooked pasta and made a creamy-cheesy salmon and pea sauce, then later had a creamy-cheesy smoked haddock and pea rice concoction (you guessed it - I was trying to use up some cheese and cream)
Saturday 23rd: A low-fat kedgeree, with smoked haddock, rice, peas, lashings of home-made garam masala, and eggs which I'd slow-cooked at 60ºC for an hour.
Sunday 24th: Beef meatballs poached in stock, with rice noodles and miso.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

A Taste of Things to Come

My beautiful new combination steam oven, arriving soon.

So I got a call a couple of days ago to tell me the kitchen parts (oven, cabinet doors, fancy tap) are being delivered in just over three weeks. That's sooner than I'd expected, because my very good friend, who I cook for and with on a regular basis, ordered her new kitchen before us, and hers won't be ready before the end of February. If I wasn't preoccupied with other things right now, I'd be even more excited than I already am!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Tomato and Parsley Sauce

Here is what has unexpectedly become one of my all-time favourite ways to serve pasta. It's so simple and low-fat, yet it packs a flavour punch that satisfies even my monstrous appetite. The recipe is Nigella's, from Forever Summer, although I've simplified it a little (as if it could be made any simpler), and below I provide a Thermomix version too.

You will need:
  • olive oil (preferably extra virgin)
  • garlic
  • tinned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes, or even passata
  • stock (one vegetable stock cube, or possibly chicken)
  • parsley

I tend not to bother with quantities in my own cooking, so I haven't included any here (but see below for a rough guide). If you make too much sauce, it will keep in the fridge for a few days, and I expect it would freeze well too.

How to make it (normal):
Peel the garlic (as much as you like). Chop, put into a pan with a little pre-heated oil. Fry gently, but take care not to burn it. Add the tomatoes (3-4 large, or half a tin/carton per person) and a crumbled stock cube, and simmer for a while. Roughly chop the parsley, around a handful per person, and add to the sauce. Stir to combine, and pour over the pasta of your choice.

How to make it (Thermomix):
Peel the garlic, add to the bowl with a little oil. Speed 4-5 for a few seconds to chop and combine. Fry 1-2 minutes at 100ºC, speed 1. Add the tomatoes and a stock cube, and cook for 5-8 minutes, Varoma temperature. Add a handful of parsley per person and blitz, speed 6, for a few seconds, until chopped and combined. Stir into pasta.

The combination of flavours is just excellent - although some people might regard the use of instant stock as cheating. Health-wise, the only added fat is the olive oil, and the rest is very low-calorie vegetables (though it's not low in salt, given the stock). Anyway, the main reason for eating this is simply that it tastes so good! It's a great example of a vegetarian dish that really doesn't need any meat added.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Changes Coming

A quick post to say, I'm getting a new kitchen soon! This should revolutionise my life, as I've been making do with half an old, broken, decrepit one for too long. It means I shall begin posting more frequently, and including photographs with my recipes, too.

Asian Improvisation

I selected a few recipes to make in the first half of this month, mostly from Delicious magazine back-issues and my new Rick Stein book (Far Eastern Odyssey). I stocked up on meat, some vegetables, spices and SE Asian speciality ingredients, and then promptly ignored half the recipes.

So I had a chicken, and decided to create my own Asian broth rather than follow a recipe. It's a first attempt, and therefore somewhat less polished than my normal posts, but it's good enough for me to want to record it here for future reference.

1 medium chicken
1 stick celery, chopped
2 sprigs fresh green peppercorns
2-3 star anise
2 large lemongrass stems, peeled, topped and tailed, and chopped
2 large cloves garlic, squashed but not peeled
4-5 cloves
2cm stick cinnamon, crushed
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 large bay leaf
3-4cm root ginger, peeled and chopped
2-3 lesser galangal roots, chopped but not peeled
1 tbsp dried shrimp
2 limes
1 hot chilli (I used Scotch bonnet), halved
fish sauce
chestnut or shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1/4 white cabbage (or pak choi, water spinach or other bland leafy vegetable), thinly sliced
1/2 packet rice noodles (I used pad thai)
2-3 spring onions, finely chopped
palm sugar or light brown sugar
sweet chilli sauce to serve

Put the chicken into a large pan. Add the celery, green and black pepper, spices, lemongrass, garlic, bay leaf, ginger and galangal, and dried shrimp, but not the chilli (unless you want it to be very hot). Add enough cold water to cover the chicken.

Bring to the boil, cover the pan and simmer for 1-1/2 hours, until the chicken meat starts to fall off the bone.

Remove the chicken carefully, set aside. Strain the soup, return to the pan. Add the chilli, continue simmering. Taste regularly, and when it has reached the desired level of hotness, remove the chilli.

Meanwhile, remove the meat from the chicken and shred with forks. Season the soup with fish sauce, the juice of the limes, and the sugar, to taste. Add the cabbage and mushrooms, and return the shredded meat to the pan. Simmer until the cabbage is almost tender, then add the noodles.

Serve when the noodles are tender, sprinkled with spring onion and chilli sauce.