This is a diary of what I cook and what I eat.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Summer BBQ

I love the weather at the moment and today was the perfect day for a BBQ. I decided to cook some lovely welsh spring lamb with some roasted red pepper cous cous and a cucumber and yoghurt salad.  This dish is quite versatile and the meat could be changed to chicken, pork or beef.  In fact it would be lush with some rump steak.  The longer you marinate the meat, the longer the flavours have to permeate the meat so I would do it either the night before or in the morning before you want to eat it.

Serves 4-6

For the lamb

1 leg of lamb, deboned and butterflied to as even thickness as you can
3 large cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large pinch of seat salt
cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp chili powder
Cinnamon stick
olive oil

  1. Put the seeds into a pan and toast for half a minute or until they are releasing their aroma.  Put into a pestle and mortar and grind them into a powder.  Mix in the other spices and crush the garlic into them to make a paste.  Add a good glug of Olive oil and rub this all over the meat.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place into a large freezer bag with the remaining dressing.  Throw in the Cinnamon stick and seal tightly.  Place into the fridge to marinate for as long as you have.
  2. When you come to cook this lamb on the BBQ you will find that some areas become more well cooked than others but this usually works well as some people prefer it more well done than others.  I love my lamb with a hint of pink.
For the cous cous

100g cous cous made up with hot water and 1/2 a chicken stock cube
2 tomatoes
2 large red peppers
3 spring onions chopped finely
sprinkle of sea salt
1/2 red chili deseeded and finely sliced
a bunch of mint shredded

  1. Chop the tomatoes and add to the cous cous while it is still hot from the water.  This will give them time to gently cook.  I then roasted the peppers in the oven for 20 minutes in a high oven.  I then placed them into a freezer bag for 15 minutes and seal the bag.  Then you should be able to see the skins come away quite easily.  If you push the skins off through the bag, they should come away but you may need to peel some of them off.  Don't worry if there are some black bits remaining though, as they lend quite a lot of flavour to the cous cous.
  2. finely slice the red peppers and add to the cous cous with the remaining ingredients.
For Cucumber and yogurt salad

1 cucumber, halved
1 small tub Greek yoghurt
1/2/ clove garlic
small handful of mint

  1. Using a potato peeler make long thin slices of the cucumber and then add the yoghurt, garlic and mint.  Keep in the fridge till the last minute.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

What a way to follow low fat soup!

I thought after my soup recipe two days ago that I should blog about the delectably and indulgently rich chocolate cake I made for my partner's birthday. I had forgotten to mention it in my previous blog and yes, I do realise the irony of blogging about healthy eating alongside pure greed but there it is.  Everybody likes chocolate and if you can have it in moderation then you are on to a winner.  So that means one slice instead of four... And possibly a long strenuous walk afterwards!

 It went down a storm at his work and I think its probably my favourite recipe for chocolate cake.  The sponge is light and I have put a butter cream filling to sandwich the two sponges together and then used a ganache to cover the cake with.  Its a relatively easy recipe as well, which makes it even more appealing.  I like to use a massive bowl and get involved with the whisk to get a really decent cake batter; fantastic for those bingo wings.

Cake Recipe
225g Self-Raising Flour
3 tbsp organic cocoa powder
2tsp baking powder
225g margarine
225g caster sugar
4 medium eggs beaten
10 tbsp whole milk

  1. Sieve the first three ingredients in a bowl and then add the margarine, caster sugar, beaten eggs and milk and beat until combined.  This is easily done with an electric mixer or with a kitchen Aid.
  2. Tip this mixture into two well greased and lined 8in baking tins.  Bake at 150 degrees for 50 minutes.
  3. Test these sponges with a skewer and when they come out clean the cake is done.  Leave to cool completely before starting with the icing.
For the butter cream
85g butter softened
170g icing sugar
25g cocoa powder
1tbsp hot water

  1. Sift the icing sugar into the butter and add the cocoa powder, also sifted.  Then add the boiling water and beat again until well blended.
Chocolate Ganache
230g double cream- basically a medium sized pot from a supermarket
200g dark/ milk chocolate depending on your preference

  1. Heat the cream and chocolate gently and whisk until blended and very smooth.  Transfer to another bowl and place into the fridge until it reaches spreading consistency.
  2. To assemble the whole cake add the butter cream to the sponges and gently spread to the edges.  Ensure the layer is even so that when they sandwich together there is some uniformity ready for the ganache.  Add the ganache to the outer cake.  Ensure the ganache is cool enough to stay put but flexible enough to be spread easily.
  3. And there you have your indulgent chocolate cake.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Soup yourself slim

I've made no secret of the fact that I am currently following weight watchers.  I have enjoyed gaining control of my eating habits and I have found that you can really eat what you want, within moderation of course. 

It might seem strange that I should be on a diet whilst at the same time protest to love my food but I find that the knowledge that I am to be weighed once a week enough to maintain a healthy weight and really my goal isn't to shed the pounds but to stay where I am.

There are a variety of ways to help you to lose weight or simply gain a healthy attitude towards food and weight watchers have got it right when they talk about 'filling foods'.  A great way to fill up before a meal is to have some soup beforehand.  It can fill you up to the point where you can cope with a moderately sized portion as opposed to a gigantic portion fit for the BFG

I also use these soups during the week as a lunch.  Each one has a low calorie content but if you were to add cream to make them slightly creamier it will up the calorie content significantly. 

I'll start with this Mediterranean chunky vegetable soup, its unbelievably simple but then again its tasty so thats all that matters.

Serves 4 for lunch

1 small swede diced
2 shallots
1 red pepper diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 jar of passata
400ml chicken stock
a handful of green beans chopped
1/2 red chili, chopped finely
tomato puree, 1 tablespoon
salt and pepper to taste

1. Put the ingredients into a large saucepan and then cover with the liquid and allow to come up to the boil.  Then reduce to a medium heat so that the liquid can simmer gently.  Cook for 25 minutes or until the swede is very soft.

2. If you wanted you could blend the soup at this point but I like the chunkiness of the soup as it is, finish with the tomato puree.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Remember the lettuce?

Its been a couple of weeks since I last discussed the various successes and the many, many failures of my abilities in the gardening area, or in my case the yard area.  Well I am impressed, with myself that is.  I have successfully looked after a number of plants and my my, you should see my lettuce.  In fact my yard has been dubbed the 'tropical paradise of our street' by a few friends because of the shere volume of plants that are suddenly appearing.  There is now a small area in which to sit, eat and hang washing which one can barely swing a cat in.  The answer to this little dilemma is to sit and eat but forget the washing.

To many it would not be a great feat to have grown a bit of lettuce from seed, did you get that 'from seed', but to me its like an achievement that should be honoured in some way, maybe a certificate stating 'Helen, you can now grow things'.  Maybe this is a little too far but you get my drift, I'm really pleased. 

I'm going to relish every bloody mouthful of this lettuce because after weeks of talking to it and pleading with it to grow efficiently, yes I really did, I have finally grown enough to make my Mediterranean salads and to feed my very hungry African land snail; I haven't asked the snail if rocket takes its fancy but surely, everyone loves rocket. 

Two varieties were sewn including rocket and salad bowl red and green lettuce.  The rocket is lovely and peppery with a sweet edge and I was thinking some luscious pesto must be made from this and that will make for some good fun trying to balance a good recipe.

It does not end here, my growing talents have extended to tomatoes, courgettes, sweet peas and herbs.  I will point out now that I have merely planted these and not developed them from seed, that would certainly be too much this year, but I anticipate with my growing confidence I may seek to do something like that.  This is all courtesy of the godfather of growing; grandad John.  I talked about him in a previous entry and he has been a real help in getting this growing lark started.

I thought you might like to look at some pictures:

Mirabelle Tomato


Tumbling Tomato

I'm still very much a gardening virgin but I know that given time I can become the green fingered slash cookery goddess I know I want to be and I know I harp on about sustainability but its the future so embrace it. I certainly am trying to embrace it and I think the future holds some exciting things for me and my trowel.

All I'm going to say is, watch this space.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Sweet Potato and Aubergine Bake with a Feta topping

This was one of the side dishes at my dinner party and really worked with the Lamb and chicken I served.  It needs a long time in the oven because I put the potatoes in raw.  If you wanted to make it quicker you could part-boil the sweet potato before putting into the baking dish.  The only problem you could face here, might be the fact that sweet potato cooks really quickly but 5-6 minutes should be fine.

Serves 4-6 as a main/side

3 aubergines
1 large sweet potato sliced into 1/2cm slices
red pepper
1/2 red chilli
1 garlic clove
1 handful of mint
olive oil
4 medium tomatoes
1/2 red onion
1 glass of white wine

1 egg
300ml milk
1 level tbsp plain flour/oo flour
large knob of butter
pinch of nutmeg

200g Feta Cheese

1. Uses the garlic clove to line the baking dish with its flavour; rub it all around the base of the dish and then use a little olive oil to grease the dish also.

2. Slice the aubergine into 1cm slices and pan fry them on each side in a little olive oil. As they are absorbent don’t put too much olive oil in the pan because it seeps out during cooking and can cause you to have a greasy dish. Allow them to sit on some kitchen roll after this process.

3. Chop the onion and the red pepper finely and chop the tomatoes roughly. Fry them all in some olive oil in a frying pan, about a tbsp, for 5 minutes in a moderate heat. Add a glass of white wine. Allow this to reduce for a few minutes and then add the mint chopped and the chilli, also chopped. Then puree this sauce with a hand blender.

4. To assemble the bake you need to have the white sauce ready. Make a roux with the flour and butter and then gradually add the milk. Whisk all the time to create a velvety smooth sauce. Add the egg and mix in, turning the heat down to very low and finish with the pinch of nutmeg.

5. Start with a layer of potato discs and then pour a little of the red pepper sauce over. Then a layer of aubergine and another layer of potato and again, another layer of red pepper sauce. Do this until you have used up all of your layers and then pour the white sauce/egg mixture over the top. Crumble the feta over the top of the bake.

6. Cover with some foil and bake at 160/gas mark 4/5 for 45 minutes. Test with a fork and if your potatoes are soft then you can remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes or until the top is browned.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Mid Week Dinner Party Fun

Its been over a week since I last blogged and this is definitely because I have too much going on at work and not enough going on in the kitchen.  A lot has happened since the 19th May, the last time I blogged, including my birthday, a new knife purchase and the receipt of a second hand bread maker.  Needless to say a lot has been happening in the kitchen.  In fact to be specific a couple of flat, stodgy loaves and a lot of finely diced vegetables, I will divulge information on my lack of bread maker talent, if that is what it would be referred to, later in the week.  All I'll say is my fingers are crossed for the loaf I'm going to make this afternoon.

Being a lazy part time worker; otherwise known as a teacher, I have this week off for half term and I decided to arrange a dinner party for our teacher friends.  Trying to deliver food with a theme I had Greek in mind but in reality a lot of the things I made could have come from any Mediterranean country.

I'm going to blog about my recipes this week and just to be different I am starting with dessert.  I made a raspberry cheesecake using a recipe I have adapted from the Good Food website.  It was very tasty, even if I do say so myself, and I hope that you will enjoy it too.

Makes 10 good slices

600g cream cheese
2 eggs and 1 extra yolk
175g caster sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
142ml soured cream
300g raspberries
vanilla extract- a few drops

12 hobnobs crushed
50g melted butter

caster sugar for finish

1. melt the butter and add to the crushed hobnobs. I crushed the hobnobs in a freezer bags with a rolling pin. When it is all combined put into a 24 cm spring form tin and press down so that it is flat. Bake for 5 minutes in a moderate oven- 180/gas mark 4.

2. Beat the cream cheese, eggs and egg yolk, flour, caster sugar, soured cream and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. I did this manually with a whisk but it was a lot of work so its better to use an electric whisk. Then stir in half of the raspberries gently.

3. Pour this mixture into the tin and then bake for 45 minutes at 180/gas mark 4. The centre wobbles slightly and the outer edge looks more firm.

Before serving sprinkle with the remaining raspberries and dust with the icing sugar.

This is the cheesecake before raspberry decoration.