Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Banana and chocolate chip muffins

I was in the midst of a baking frenzy for a family party on Friday, so I thought I might as well use up my over ripe bananas and make these banana muffins while I was in the baking mood. They were delicious straight from the oven, the only way to eat them I think. I found the recipe on a website called Baking Mad. I did only eat one, honest. 

Makes 12
100g butter, softened
2 eggs, medium
175g golden caster sugar 
225g self-raising white flour 
1tsp baking powder
3 tbsp milk 
2 banana(s) very ripe, mashed
100g dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.
Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and beat until smooth.
Spoon the mixture evenly into the paper cases and place in the oven for 25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean and the muffins are golden brown in colour.
Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack.

Slimming world chicken curry

I'm cutting down again, so whilst looking for lower calories meals, I came across this chicken curry on the Slimming world website. I'm not about to go posting all the recipes I try off the website, as they are available to see if you so desire. This was particularly tasty tonight though, so I thought I would share it for those who are looking for a healthier curry. I added a little fresh spinach to the meal at the end of cooking.

2 large onions, sliced
600ml chicken stock
2 tsp turmeric
3 cardamom pods
1 x 2.5cm piece cinnamon stick (I didn't have this)
4 black peppercorns
4 cloves
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp peeled and grated root ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp mild chilli powder
3 garlic cloves, crushed
4 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, sliced
275ml fat free natural yogurt, brought to room temperature (I didn't use this)
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves, to garnish

Put the onion and 425ml of the chicken stock in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Cover the pan, bring to the boil and then boil for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat, uncover the pan and cook gently for 20 minutes, until the onion is tender, golden and syrupy.
Add all the spices and garlic to the pan, and cook for 3-4 minutes. Then add the chicken and cook for a few minutes to coat in the spices, then stir in the remaining chicken stock.
Cover the pan and simmer very gently over a medium heat for 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked.
Transfer the curry to a large serving bowl. Add 4 tbsp of the cooking sauce to the yogurt and stir well. Gradually add the yogurt into the curry, stirring continuously. Season to taste with salt, and serve immediately with boiled rice, and garnish with fresh coriander.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Broccoli and coconut soup

This recipe gives a simple broccoli soup a little extra zing, with the addition of the ginger and chilli. Today I used low fat greek yoghurt instead of the coconut milk in an attempt to lower the calories. The previous time I made it I did use the coconut milk and it gave the soup a wonderful creamy, rich flavour. The recipe came from Olive Magazine. 

onion 1, finely chopped
broccoli 800-900g, chopped
garlic 1 clove, crushed
ginger 2cm piece, grated
green chilli 1, finely chopped
coconut milk 400g tin, shake it to mix it well and reserve 2-3 tbsp for decoration
vegetable or chicken stock 750ml

Fry the onion in a little oil in a large pan until it is soft but hasn’t browned too much. Add the broccoli, garlic, ginger and chilli, and stir everything for a minute or so until it smells fragrant.Add the coconut milk and stock, and bring everything to a simmer, then cook for 20 minutes, or until the broccoli stems are tender. Season well and blend the soup with
a hand blender or liquidiser until it is as smooth as you can make it. Pour it back into the pan and leave it for the bubbles to settle.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Hairy Dieters rich beef in Red wine

I am a huge fan of beef casseroles and this one from the Hairy Dieters 'Eat for Life' book is no exception. I cooked mine the other evening for a lot longer than the recipe said, the meat was beautifully tender without breaking up. There is no scrimping on flavour with this meal even though the calories count is only 416 calories per portion. It's a perfect meal for the forthcoming wintery evenings. The only thing I'm disappointed with is the photo which really doesn't do the meal justice. 

Serves 6
1.25kg braising steak
150g rindless lean smoked back bacon (about 5 rashers)
1 tbsp of sunflower oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
300ml of red wine
2 tbsp tomato puree
500ml of cold water (I didn't add this, just used more wine)
1 beef stock cube
2 large bay leaves
400g small shallots
3 bushy sprigs of thyme (I didn't have this)
250g button mushrooms, wiped and halved
2 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp cold water
freshly chopped parsley to garnish (optional)
flaked sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 170ºC. Trim the braising steak of any fat and cut into chunky pieces, each about 4cm. Season the beef really well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Trim the bacon of any visible fat and cut into 2cm wide strips.
Heat the oil in a large casserole dish. Fry the beef and bacon over a meduim heat for 3 minutes until lightly browned on all sides, turning every now and then.
Add the onion and garlic to the dish and fry for 2 minutes more. Pour over the the wine and stir in the tomato puree and water. Crumble over the stock cube, add the herbs and bring to a simmer. Stir well and cover with a lid and transfer to the oven. Cook for 1½ hours.
While the beef is cooking, peel the shallots.
Take the casserole out of the oven and stir in the shallots and mushrooms. Return to the oven for a further 45 minutes or until the beef is completely tender.
Mix the cornflour with 2 tablespoons of water until smooth and stir this into the casserole. Place the dish on the hob and simmer for 1-2 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally. Don't stir too much or the beef could fall apart.
Adjust the seaseonong to taste, sprinkle with the fresh parsely and serve with small portion of rice or mashed potatoes and green beans.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Courgette scarpaccia

I made this meal a month or so ago when the weather still felt summery. It's a mix between a tart and a pancake. It wasn't at all popular with the kids, but I really enjoyed it. I'd say it was more a light lunch than an evening meal.  The recipe came from Olive magazine, which has a good description of the recipe. There are sweet and savoury versions of this Tuscan pancake-tart hybrid – this is salata (savoury). Scarpaccia means old shoe, perhaps because the end result should be as thin as the sole of an old shoe. ...

courgettes 300g
plain flour 50g
baking powder a pinch
eggs 2
milk 75ml
parmesan or grana padano (or veggie alternative) grated to make 4 tbsp, plus lots of shavings for the top
olive oil
spring onions 2, sliced

Finely slice the courgettes into a sieve, using a mandoline if you have one. Sprinkle on some salt and leave them for 30 minutes to disgorge some liquid. Rinse and then squeeze them dry.
Heat the oven to 200C. Tip the flour and baking powder into a bowl, make a well in the centre and break in the eggs. Gradually stir the flour into the eggs, adding the milk when the mixture gets too thick. Beat the mixture with a balloon whisk to make sure it is smooth, then stir in the parmesan, most of the courgette and plenty of black pepper.
Liberally oil a 20cm square tin with a fixed base or a baking dish, put the spring onions in with another slug of oil and bake for 3 minutes. Remove the tin from the oven and pour the batter into the tin. Toss the remaining courgette slices in a little oil and add them to the top in an even layer. Bake for 20 minutes, or until browned around the edges and set in the centre, scatter on the parmesan shavings, allow to cool, and cut into pieces to serve.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Nigel Slaters moist plum cake

This is just a reminder of this delicious,moist, almondy, plum cake. We were lucky enough to be able to go and pick some plums from a neighbours garden. Even though they were sweet enough to eat on their own, I couldn't resist making a cake or two. Its wonderful with a cup of tea or to eat as a dessert warm from the oven. 


150g butter
150g unrefined golden caster sugar
16 plums (size dependent, less if large plums)
3 large eggs
75g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds
50g shelled walnuts (I didn't use these)

Set the oven at 175ºC. Line the base of a 20-22cm cake tin with baking parchment.
Beat the butter and sugar until it is pale and fluffy. A food mixer will do this far more efficiently than by hand. Stop when the mixture is light, soft and the colour of vanilla ice cream. Meanwhile, halve the plums, remove the stones, then cut each half in two.
Break the eggs, beat lightly with a fork, then add them bit by bit to the butter and sugar. Sift the flour and baking powder together and fold them gently into the mixture. I do this with a large metal spoon rather than the food mixer. Fold in the ground almonds, then chop the walnuts so they are the size of small gravel, then fold them in, too.
Scrape the mixture into the cake tin. Place the quartered plums on the cake mixture. Bake for 40-45 minutes, then test with a skewer. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 15 minutes before turning out.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Vietnamese style chocolate and coffee pots

These little pots of loveliness were perfect for a meal with friends last night. I made them in the morning and left them to chill until ready to serve. The espresso cups were just the right size for a sweet ending to dinner, without overindulging. The recipe is from Olive Magazine. 

Serves 4
50g dark chocolate broken into pieces, plus extra for decoration
1 tbsp of condensed milk
1 tsp of cocoa powder
2 tbsp of strong espresso coffee
1½ egg whites
½ tsp of lemon juice

Put the chocolate, cocoa powder and condensed milk into a medium heatproof bowl and melt over a pan of just simmering water. Remove from the heat (it will be quite thick at this stage) and, while it is still hot, stir in the just made coffee. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
Whisk the egg white in a clean medium bowl with the lemon juice, until they form stiff peaks. Stir one large spoonful into the cooled chocolate mixture to loosen it, then fold the remaining whites into the chocolate mixture. 
Divide between the 4 espresso cups or pretty glasses and chill until ready to serve. Grate some dark chocolate on the top before serving. 

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Spiced black bean & chicken soup with kale

This is another great soup which uses leftover cooked chicken. Even without the leftover chicken there are enough wonderful flavours with the spices and beans, so the chicken isn't absolutely necessary. The recipe came from the BBC delicious magazine. 

2 tbsp mild olive oil
2 fat garlic cloves, crushed
small bunch coriander stalks finely chopped, leaves picked
zest 1 lime, then cut into wedges
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chilli flakes
400g can chopped tomatoes
400g can black beans, rinsed and drained
600ml chicken stock
175g kale, thick stalks removed, leaves shredded
250g leftover roast or ready-cooked chicken
50g feta, crumbled, to serve
flour and corn tortillas, toasted, to serve (see tip)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the garlic, coriander stalks and lime zest, then fry for 2 mins until fragrant. Stir in the cumin and chilli flakes, fry for 1 min more, then tip in the tomatoes, beans and stock. Bring to the boil, then crush the beans against the bottom of the pan a few times using a potato masher. This will thicken the soup a little.
Stir the kale into the soup, simmer for 5 mins or until tender, then tear in the chicken and let it heat through. Season to taste with salt, pepper and juice from half the lime, then serve in shallow bowls, scattered with the feta and a few coriander leaves. Serve the remaining lime in wedges for the table, with the toasted tortillas on the side. The longer you leave the chicken in the pan, the thicker the soup will become, so add a splash more stock if you can’t serve the soup straight away.