Sunday, 12 October 2008

Chicken tagine with lemon couscous

A tagine originates from North Africa. In actual fact, it is the type of dish that the food is cooked in. It looks bit like an upside down funnel. Because water is at a shortage in North Africa, this dish enables them to cook nice moist stews using minimal water. The funnel leaves room for the steam to cool and condense, dripping back onto the meat or vegetables and keeping them juicy. Normally, tagines have some sort of meat, spices and some fruit like apricots or prunes. If you don't have a tagine - like I don't - then you can use a casserole dish or similar lidded sauce pan.

Ingredients (for 4 people)

  • Low fat cooking spray
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 2 onions
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 500 ml chicken stock
  • 1 x 400 g tin apricots in juice
Spray some of that tasty low fat cooking spray into your tagine (or casserole dish). Heat the pan and then brown the chicken breasts for about 1.5 minutes each side. Remove from the pan and place to one side.

Add a bit more cooking spray to the pan, and stir fry the chopped peppers and onions for 5 minutes. Next, add the garlic (chopped) and spices and keep stirring for another minute.

Put the chicken back into the pan along with the chicken stock and chopped tomatoes. Stir well, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Drain the apricots and add to the pot, and cook for another 5 minutes or until the chicken is tender.

Meanwhile, prepare the lemon couscous ...


  • 250 g couscous
  • 300 ml chicken stock
  • 75 g green beans
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper
Cover the couscous with the hot chicken stock in a bowl, and then cover the bowl. Leave for ten minutes. Meanwhile, steam the green beans and chop into ~1/5 cm lengths. After the couscous has been standing for 10 minutes, add the green beans, the lemon juice and zest. Fluff it up with a fork.

Serve the chicken tagine wit plenty of couscous on the side.

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Thursday, 9 October 2008

"Vegetarian" Shepherd's Pie

Why is this "vegetarian" and not vegetarian? Well, it uses Quorn which is not meat admittedly, but it is certainly not a vegetable and it is designed to taste like meat. In fact, I once went for a job interview at the company that makes Quorn (I didn't get the job by the way), and it is grown from some fungus. The management at Quorn took a wise decision to not call it "Fungal protein" but instead, the far tastier sounding "mycoprotein" which means protein grown from fungus.

I have probably put you off eating quorn now as well. Anyway, if you want to be a vegetarian why eat meat tasting substitutes? That was my point! Well, we ate it because it is low in fat compared to beef! It does taste different to meat, but its a good enough substitute for me. I think you can get chicken breast shapes, chicken nuggets and so on as well.


  • Low fat cooking spray
  • 2 leeks, finely sliced
  • 2 carrots - peeled and chopped
  • 1 can sweet corn (200 g)
  • 500 g passata
  • 300 g Quorn mince (frozen or fresh)
  • 2 teaspoons Marmite (or other yeast extract)
  • 200 g baked beans (half a tin)
  • 600 g potatoes peeled and chopped into chunks
  • 300 g parsnips peeled and sliced thickly
  • Salt and pepper
  • Nob of butter
  • Splash of milk

The potatoes I used were from my future father-in-laws allotment and were desiree. They have a dark red skin, and score a 5 on the waxy/floury scale - I just discovered this scale today at this website - so I will try and drop it into conversation whenever I can. That will sure make for some exciting chats.

Anyway, this one caught my eye, as it had a red colouring right the way through. You can just make it out in the picture below, although it is somewhat disappointing compared to what it looked like in real life.

Right, anyway, put the peeled and chopped potatoes and parsnips into a pan of boiling water and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until soft and ready for mashing. Now, add the butter, a splash of milk and salt and pepper and mash until nice and smooth.

Meanwhile, heat a large pan with a lid, and spray with low fat cooking spray. Add the leek and onions and stir fry for about 5 minutes.

Now add all the other ingredients - quorn, passata, sweet corn, baked beans. You will need a bit more liquid, so get the passata container and rinse it out with about 200 ml of water and tip that into the pan.

Bring to the boil and then simmer gently for 10 minutes with a lid on.

This is where things started to go a bit wrong for me. I realised that not only did I have too much filling for one dish to be able to top with mash, I also had too much filling for two dishes of shepherd's pie filling topped with mash.

It was a somehwat tricky operation to balance the mash on top of the filling, but it worked out ok (as long as you are not too into presentation).

I put cheese on one half (my half, since the missus is on a diet) and then under a hot grill for 5 minutes or so, until it just starts to brown, and if you are lucky enough to put cheese on the top, the cheese will start to bubble.

That's it! Pretty tasty actually, despite my complaining about Quorn earlier!

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Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Jacket Potato in Pictures

A humble potato...

Stab it all over with a fork.

Wet the potato.
Sprinkle liberally with salt (makes for a crispy skin).

Get the oven nice and hot - 220 C is about as hot as mine will go.
Place the potato on a baking tray, and bake for ~1 hour, turning over half way through.

Remove from the oven.

Now this is the good bit - what makes it really tasty!

Hold the potato in a clean tea towel, and give it a good, firm whack on the work top. This breaks up the skin a bit, and somehow makes it go all fluffy and light inside.

Split the potato - split it along the top, then press from either end of the split to spread it out and up.
Add a generous knob of butter.

And finish with your favourite topping! Here is the classic beans and cheese. Yum!

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Sunday, 5 October 2008

Beef Rogan Josh Curry

OK, so this is yet another low calorie recipe and again, not too bad at all!


  • 500 g lean beef steak, cubed
  • 2 onions - sliced
  • 2 peppers (I used yellow) - sliced
  • 2 carrots - made into "sticks"
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic - chopped finely
  • 4 dried red chillies - chopped finely
  • 4 tsp dried cumin
  • 4 tsp dried turmeric
  • 4 tsp dried ground coriander
  • ~250 g yoghurt (low fat)
  • 2 x 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
  • Low fat cooking spray
Spray a large pan with low fat cooking spray, then brown the beef. Remove and place on a plate.

Spray the pan again with the low fat cooking spray, and stir fry the onions, carrots and peppers for about 5 minutes, until slightly browned.

Now add the spices, chillies and garlic and stir fry for another minute or two.

Add the yoghurt and tinned tomatoes, stir well, and then add the meat back to the pan. The recipe called for 200 ml water to be added at this point, which I did, but I recommend that you don't as it makes for a very watery sauce! Not good.

Bring to the boil and simmer gently for an hour.

And then it is ready! We served it with jacket potatoes (more on those later) and sprinkled with fresh coriander. As you can see, the sauce is a bit watery!

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Saturday, 4 October 2008

Gnocchi and pumpkin gratin

As my lady mentioned in an earlier post, she is trying to lose weight prior to our wedding next year. This means diet food, good for her, but not so good for me as I will waste away!

Anyway, this is a recipe from Weight Watchers again, and despite using that weird tasting low fat cooking spray, it was actually not bad! It was quite filling, but that is because we ended up doubling the recipe and the portion sizes! Whoops! Still, apparently it came in at 5 points a portion, and if you know what that means, then well done!! I don't!


  • 800 g butternut squash
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 large red onion
  • Handful fresh sage roughly chopped
  • Low fat cooking spray
  • 1 kg gnocchi
  • 500 g passata
  • Parmesan to grate on the top - not too much, mind, you're on a diet!
Heat the oven to 200C. Peel and chop the squash into ~1cm cubes. This is hard work! If anyone knows a good easy way to peel squash, I would love to hear about it!

Place in a roasting dish with the garlic (skin on), onion (roughly chopped), salt and pepper, and a misting of low fat cooking spray. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, until the garlic is soft and the butternut squash is nearly cooked.

Now get your gnocchi out. And also, have a look at the passata (not sure why this warranted a picture now). It looks good. But better if you cook it...

So, cook the gnocchi in some hot water - so hot it is boiling. The pack will probably tell you the best way to do this but I would reckon on about 5 minutes maximum.

Squeeze the garlic out of its skin now and mash up with a fork. Place back in the roasting dish with the squash and onions. Now mix in the cooked and drained gnocchi and the passata. Top it all with some grated parmesan. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is golden and bubbling, and the squash is nice and soft.

It should look a bit like this:

Now eat it at once!

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