Poached eggs….

….and other yumminess!

So I woke up this morning (earlier than I’d hoped on my day off due to the 3 year old) but with the most amazing food combo idea already in my head for lunch.  I knew I had everything in the fridge or about to be delivered with my shopping, husband working at home so I could go ahead.

And ahead I went.  The result a plateful of maybe a bit odd but the most delicious and utterly nutritious food imaginable, just what my tastebuds seemed to be screaming out for and whilst not 100% Slimming World friendly without a doubt better than a fat laden sandwich!

Barely even a recipe so I’ll just tell you what it is:

A slice of wholegrain toast spread thickly with avocado, squeeze of lemon juice, thinly sliced red onion, a sprinkle of salt (remind me to tell you my fascination with salt, this was my current fave Fleur du sel), topped with a roasted salmon fillet, perfectly poached eggs and generous grind of fresh black pepper.

I cannot describe the pleasure, a reasonably simple lunch really, 10 mins to prepare and hardly hard work, but so tasty.

Going to try versions in the coming weeks, watch this space….

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Another January, another….

….need to get rid of some of the holiday weight!!

I love Christmas.  No, I adore it, cherish it, celebrate it – and EAT IT!  From around 19th December, the approx date our tree (real and huge) goes up and the hamper (from parents, generous and extremely indulgent) arrives, it’s an ‘all bets are off’ situation for me.  I don’t so much as fall off the wagon, more I fall off, chop the wagon into tiny pieces and set fire to it whilst stuffing stilton in my gob and doing a happy dance!

Now I realise the error of this plan after a year of trying to be reasonably good and seeing some success in the battle of the bulge, but I can’t – no I won’t change.  It’s just too much fun!

Anyway.  It’s now 3rd January.  I’ve had my first couple of coffees made with milk instead of baileys (bleugh), finished the last of the cheese in the fridge, just polishing off the rest of a rather nice bottle of Zinfandel and it’s time to crack on with the health kick.  I don’t do starvation, I simply can’t which is why the principles of Slimming World appeal to me so much.  It’s just basic common sense.  I’m not however a rep, nor am I an expert – self proclaimed or otherwise – so I won’t add a syn value to any of my recipes.  All I’ll assure you of is that I’ve done my very best to make the ones I claim to be SW friendly as close as possible to that as I can, removed as much fat content as I can and tried to keep flavour and satisfaction high on the agenda.

Case in point my roasted veg and tomato pasta sauce.  This has become such a staple in my house.  I make it in huge batches in my beloved slow cooker and freeze in 2 person portions.  It’s great as a sauce on it’s own but even better with a protein added.

Hope you love it, here’s to a happy, healthy 2016!

Ingredients – makes enough to feed 8 hungry adults

6 peppers – mix of colours but not green

4 large onions (peeled)

6 cloves garlic

4 stalks celery

4 carrots (peeled)

2 leeks (cleaned)

2 tins chopped tomatoes

2 bay leaves

Large bunch basil

Light oil spray

Salt and black pepper

Method

Chop onion and peppers into very large pieces, you really want them quartered unless they’re massive in which case a bit smaller.  Chuck in a large roasting dish with the whole peeled garlic cloves, lots of pepper (no salt) and some light oil spray.

Roast at 180 for approx 40 mins.  My oven is like napalm so I check after 25 and stir around if necessary, you want the veg really soft and starting to colour quite black and charred around the edges, great flavour.

Meanwhile celery carrots and leeks can be chopped very big and chucked in the slow cooker with tomatoes, plenty of seasoning and the bay leaves. This 20 mins of gentle chopping effort really is the most you’ll have to do I promise.

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Once the veg are roasted add them to the slow cooker mix.

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Bung the basil on top, I don’t chop it, just throw the whole bunch, stalks and all in.  Isn’t that just beautiful, you know it’s going to taste amazing!  It needs no stock cube, no water.  Cook on high for 3 hours or if you’ve got time 5 on low.

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Let it cool and blitz in a processor or with a stick blender.  I like it left a little chunky but it you go really smooth you could make it into a soup.

And that’s it, a beautiful pot of deliciousness that you just know will be doing you good.  Below some extra things I add at oven roasting stage if I’ve got them knocking around, and a few ways to use the sauce:

To add:

Courgette, sweet potato, cauliflower (roasted cauli is truly gorgeous)

Uses:

As a pasta sauce on it’s own or with added chicken, white fish or prawns

As a bruschetta topping with some crumbled feta and a few olives on top

Blended a bit smoother with a drop of water if needed and dated as a delicious soup with some seeds or croutons on top

 

 

 

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Allow me to introduce….

….the joys of a slider burger for a 3 year old!

Anyone who has experienced the utter lows of a child who won’t always eat what and when you’d like, will understand the triumph when you find something that not only makes them happy every single time you cook it, but you know is homemade, has no added rubbish and can be paired with something to make you happy as a parent about the veg quota.

This pic shows the exact way my very particular child likes this meal presented to her.  Note the burger in the mini bun, the extra slider, and the silver spoon (mini heart shaped of course) with her own personal pot of ketchup.  I’m not saying I never deviate from this presentation of course, but to do so may be a risky operation….

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Ingredients (makes approx 16 sliders, I freeze in batches of 2)

500g minced beef, I use min 15% fat here, a burger needs fat!

1 medium red onion

1 fat clove garlic

Olive oil

sprinkle mixed dried herbs

Salt & pepper

Method

  1.  Finely chop onion and grate or finely chop garlic.    Heat a drizzle of oil in a pan and slowly cook the onion and garlic together with a pinch of salt until really soft but not too coloured, set aside and allow to cool.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the beef, cooled onion mix, seasoning and herbs, no need for egg, breadcrumbs or any of that stuff here.  Divide into equal (ish) sized balls, shape and flatten into little patties.  At this stage you can freeze them or cook.
  3. To cook the burgers, heat a little more oil (really just a touch as there’s plenty of fat in the mix) and fry the sliders gently for around 6 – 8 minutes, turning occasionally.
  4. Serve as you or your mini monster prefers.  For adults I would add every condiment under the sun – a few combo suggestions below.  These are great with drinks as a surprise nibble for friends expecting a bowl of crisps or peanuts.

Suggested toppings:

  • Traditional – cheese, gherkins, red onion, mustard and ketchup
  • Blue cheese and lightly fried mushrooms
  • Peanut butter and crispy bacon – yes really.  Don’t judge, just try it
  • Slice of chorizo and melted manchego cheese

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Good ‘ole Spag Bol my way!

In so many ways it feels odd to even post this as a recipe because it really is super easy.  And yet the results provide a meal of such complex flavour, depth of character and sheer comfort factor we’ve probably all – vegetarians aside – eaten, cooked and ordered this dish in restaurants across the world.

This is my favourite version.  I’ve been cooking spag bol my whole adult life and have veered across about 137 different recipes, some from books by proper actual chefs, some from family and friends, but mostly just my own tweaks from the previous try.  I kinda think I’ve nailed it for my own and my families tastes and also managed to adhere to Slimming World guidelines which makes me happy 🙂

Note: I tend to always do my sauce in a slow cooker now, mainly because I just damn well love that machine but also for time and effort saving – once the chopping is done you’re really free to crack on with whatever else your day has in store.  However, it would work just as well in a big pot on the cooker top too, just brown off all the veg in a splash of olive oil before adding the mince and doing the same, then chuck in all other ingredients and simmer for anything up to 4 hours.

Serves 4 very hungry adults (or in my home 2 adults, 1 child and 2 portions for the freezer)

Ingredients

1 large onion

1 large leek

2 stalks celery

2 carrots

3 fat cloves garlic (I’m in the camp of you can never have too much garlic, feel free to adjust to taste)

500g minced beef, I use 5% fat

1 – 2 beef stock cubes

1 tin chopped tomatoes

good squeeze tomato puree

Balsalmic vinegar

Dried oregano

Red wine

Worcestershire sauce

200g your choice of pasta (for my family, you use whatever quantity suits your situation)

Method (for slow cooker):

  1.    Chop all veg and throw in slow cooker.  I’m not a big fan of ‘hidden’ veg for kiddies but if necessary these ingredients can be prepped seriously finely so they kind of melt in a gorgeous sweet mush within the sauce and end up toddler friendly invisible.

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2.    Add minced beef, stock, tomatoes, puree, oregano, a small glass of wine, good splash of balsamic and worcestershire sauce, season, give it a quick stir mainly to break the mince up a bit and bung lid on.

3.  Here’s the beauty of a slow cooker.  High heat for 2 hours then switch to low for 3 – 4 hours more, however long you’ve got really.  If I’m at home I generally can’t resist a quick stir occasionally but you could happily leave this alone altogether.

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4.    Towards the end of cooking time or on the warming stage if using a slow cooker, cook pasta according to instructions, drain and put back into the pasta saucepan.  Add however much of the sauce you like and mix lightly.

5.    You can adorn delightedly with oodles of freshly grated parmesan and torn basil but to be honest there’s no need.  This is simplicity itself but utterly delicious.

Enjoy!

Serves 4 very hungry people

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London calling!

Wow.  Here in the UK we have a capital city (among many others of course) that presents such a diverse mix of food and drink culture, we really are spoiled.

Just returned from 36 hours of child free luxury – fine dining, relaxed dining, drinking, fun and festivity with my hubby to celebrate our 7th anniversary. We stayed in a beautiful hotel and basically spent every waking hour either eating or wandering between eating establishments seeking the next glorious experience.

As a couple we actually have little in common other than our utter passion for great food, so this kind of short break is our bliss.  There’s so much to share but I need to gather my thoughts – oh and I’m about to sit down to a meal prepared by my amazing mum who also had babysitting duties while we were away. The menu is a closely guarded secret although I’ve seen evidence of crab and curry….

Will give a full London report very shortly!

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Just for Nat – my pizza dough recipe

My dear friend Natalie (newly engaged and utterly gorgeous!) has asked me to share my pizza dough recipe.  Let me explain that this little beauty is 2 years in the making, I’ve tried endless variations – honey instead of sugar, salt, no salt, different oils, you name it, and have finally come up with something that satisfies my need for a thin and crispy vehicle of dough that carries any number of delicious, and sometimes bizarre, toppings.

Note: flour should be 00 or bread/pizza specific.  I don’t understand the science, it’s just better.

Another note: I always use a pizza stone.  If you’re serious about crust you should invest, they’re not pricey at all and worth the investment, just never EVER clean them in water, a quick swipe with a dry cloth is all that’s needed, I promise.

Ingredients:

200g flour (see note above)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 sachet (7g) easy bake yeast

1 heaped teaspoon sugar – I’ve used golden caster and normal granulated – no diff at all

1/2 tablespoon salt – I prefer maldon sea salt

Tap hot water – 140 – 200ml.  Every batch of flour adapts differently so be prepared to add gradually

Method:

In the bowl of a tabletop mixer, put flour, yeast, sugar, salt.  Mix lightly and make a well in the centre.  Using dough hook mix gently, then still on that speed add oil, and half the water, you’ll definitely need more.  Continue to add water until the dough comes together in a scruffy blob, you might need to scrape down the hook a bit.  When it looks good, continue to mix on a low ish speed for up to 5 mins, the equivalent of a good 10 – 12 mins kneading by hand.  The dough should be elastic, shiny and spring back slightly when you press a finger into it.

If preparing by hand, you’ll get a great workout.  It’s actually exactly the same method replacing the dough hook with your well washed mits.  I’ve done this many times too – crazily therapeutic but quite hard work!

Use the same bowl, lightly oiled, covered with cling film and place in a non-drafty spot to rest the dough.  It’s good after 30 mins but I’ve been known to leave it hours!  It’ll double in size.  Simply split it in half to make 2 bases of around 14inch, enough for 2 seriously greedy people.

Toppings and cooking details coming soon….watch this space Nat….

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Happy Sunday!

So while trawling through about 1,347 online pics from the past few months I stumbled across a (pretty amateur if I’m honest) but utterly drool inducing pic of our first meal on a recent break in Mijas, Spain.

We were starving, happy, slightly tipsy and in need of simple fare.  So after a quick visit to fab local market I whipped up a panful of high heat fried prawns, calimari and chorizo with lashings of olive oil, garlic, fresh tomato and smoky paprika.  All served al fresco with crusty bread, salad and of course the obligatory chilled white wine.

Delicious, and a very happy memory indeed 🙂

Happy Spanish Sunday!

Happy Spanish Sunday!

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