Saturday, December 29, 2012

Creamed Spinach

On cold, wet and windy days like this weekend, I love to go to the supermarket and then cook for the freezer.  Today, being just after Christmas, I bought 800g of sliced smoked salmon for about £9, a real bargain:-)  This I have packaged up in greaseproof paper slices and frozen.  Luckily I love smoked salmon...

Anyway, I was also in the mood for freezing some vegetable dishes, and so one of the things I made was this creamed spinach which freezes well.

500g spinach
75g shallot, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
150g half fat creme fraiche
1 rounded tsp ground nutmeg
good grinding of black pepper

Nutrition Info (for whole 500g spinach)  
Protein: 21g
Carbohydrate: 45g
Fat: 30g
Dietary Fibre: 11g

  • Wash the spinach.  Pour boiling water over to blanch, then strain in a sieve.  Press out as much water as possible.
  • In a saucepan, saute the chopped onion in the oil over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes until golden.  Add the freshly ground pepper, ground nutmeg, and stir in the creme fraiche.
  • Mix well with the spinach.
  • To serve, heat through in a saucepan.
  • Freeze in small portions, or flat freeze in cooking rings or silicone cupcases then store in freezer bags in the freezer.
You could also make this with cream, mascarpone or coconut milk instead of the creme fraiche.   If you don't want to freeze it, then yoghurt would also work well.  To freeze, you need a good proportion of fat ( the recipe...).

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Smoked Trout with Beetroot and Creamy Rocket

And so, I think, starts an obsession with cooking rings...!  This was so quick and simple, yet had a delicious clean flavour and looked effective.

Nutrition Info (excluding puree)
Calories: 304
Protein: 15g
Carbohydrate: 15g
Fat: 21g
Dietary Fibre: 2.5g

Ingredients (serves 1)
Beetroot puree for decoration (
Sprig of dill
1 cooked (85g) beetroot
handful (30g) of wild rocket (rucola/arugula)
1 heaped tsp (30g) horseradish sauce
2 heaped tsp (28g) sour cream
50g smoked trout flakes

  • Pipe the beetroot puree onto a plate.
  • Position an oiled cooking ring onto the plate.  Make a first layer of sliced beetroot.
  • Mix the rocket, horseradish sauce and sour cream and press down onto the beetroot layer.
  • Top with the flaked smoked trout, garnish with dill, and serve.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Mini Chocolate 'Christmas Puddings'

Made from a chocolate biscuit cake recipe, these little cakes are decorated to look like Christmas puddings.  Certainly not healthy, but easy to make and look very effective at this time of year!  There are many versions of this across the internet, I used to roll white icing on top, but prefer the white chocolate I did this year.  Chocolate biscuit cake mix is not an exact science.  Start off with smaller quantities and add more butter if too dry, and more biscuits if too oily.  While these are easy to make, you need to be very methodical so that it doesn't take too long.  In a moment of madness, I was making 3 batches of these in total to take to my two offices!

Ingredients (makes about 30)
80-100g butter
100g plain dark chocolate, broken into pieces
1 large tablespoon golden syrup
250-300g digestive (plain sweetmeal) biscuits
50g dried fruit
80g white chocolate
paper truffle cases
red and green writing icing

  • Melt the butter, dark chocolate and syrup over a medium heat until smooth.  Remove from heat.
  • Meanwhile, put the biscuits into a plastic bag and crush.
  • Stir in the crushed biscuits and dried fruit and mix well.
  • Form into balls and chill in the fridge on two plates for about 30 minutes.
  • Break up the white chocolate into pieces and put in a cup.  Melt in the microwave until smooth for about one minute, checking and stirring every 20-30 seconds.
  • Take one plate of chocolate balls out of the fridge.  Put each one in a paper case and spoon a little white chocolate over each to look like custard.  Put in the fridge to set, and repeat with the other plate.
  • When the white chocolate on the first plate has set, remove from the fridge and pipe two lines of green icing on each ball to look like a sprig of holly leaves.  Put back in the fridge to set, and repeat with the second plate.
  • Remove the first plate from the fridge again and pipe 3 dots of red icing under the holly to look like berries.  Put back in the fridge and repeat with the second plate.
  • These can be eaten immediately, or stored in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks.
You won't use all the white chocolate, but making more saves worry at the end!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Rosemary, Butternut Squash and Ham Stew

This is one of those 'what have I got in the kitchen?' stews, made on a day when you notice the first autumn tinges of red and gold in the trees, and you need to keep turning the heating on and off!

Nutrition Info (per serving)
Calories: 508
Protein: 21g
Carbohydrate: 68g
Fat: 17g
Dietary Fibre: 13g

Ingredients (makes 3 servings)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon chopped dried rosemary
1 medium onion, diced
1 tsp garlic puree
1 butternut squash
1x 400g tin red kidney beans
1 x 400g tin chick peas
180g chopped cooked ham hock
2 dsp mirin
2 dsp reduced salt soy sauce

  • Peel the butternut squash and place whole in a microwavable dish.  Microwave for 5 minutes, cut in half, and microwave each half for a further 5 minutes.  Scoop out the seeds, and chop the squash into bite-sized pieces.
  • In a large saucepan, add the oils and onion, fry over a medium-high heat until golden brown, add the garlic puree and rosemary, stir and take off the heat. Turn the heat down to medium.
  • Quickly add water to about a cm depth and stir to stop the onion mixture sticking.  Add the kidney beans, chick peas, squash and ham hock and spoon over the mirin and soy sauce. Stir well.
  • Put the lid on the saucepan, and continue to cook over a medium heat for another 20 minutes without stirring.  Take the lid off, stir well, and continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated, and the whole flat smells of rosemary.
  • Serve immediately whilst your mouth is still watering.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Squirrel tendencies

When I grow up, I'm going to be a squirrel I think...

I eat a lot of vegetables...  But even for me, when I buy vegetables, it tends to have to be two or three different kinds that I then have to eat for the rest of the week so that I eat them whilst they're fresh.  Or else they have to be thrown out.  The vegetables I eat most of are spinach and kale, I make a mean spinach smoothie with various added ingredients, and love using kale as a stir fry base.  The other day, packs of asparagus were on a 3 for 2 offer, so I automatically bought 3 packets, chopped them up and froze them. 

But I'm not so good at variety.  Since I've been in the UK, I kept looking at huge savoy cabbages and thinking that I didn't want to eat it every meal for a week.  (Food was sold in smaller portions in Japan).  I love cooking, but when I'm ravenously hungry, I'm inherently lazy and impatient.  So it dawned on me this morning that I should chop and freeze a lot of vegetables, so that they're just ready to throw in.

Today, shopping and two hours later, any squirrel would be proud of me.  I now have an entire freezer full of chopped vegetables - red onions, shallots, savoy cabbage, leeks, carrots, asparagus, broccoli, spring onions, mixed mushrooms.  On the fruit side - blueberries, blackcurrants and blackberries.  I really enjoyed preparing all that, and knowing it's going to make cooking even more fun, and probably cheaper in the long run!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Turkey, Ham, Mushrooms and Asparagus in a Creamy Sauce

This has become my favourite recipe of the week.  It's not my own, it's been adapted and simplified from this recipe  This LeKue steamer is one of my top kitchen gadgets - it's right up there with the kettle, the rice cooker and the microwave.  Of course, you don't have to use the steamer, you could use a covered microwaveable bowl instead.

Ingredients (serves 1)
100g mixed frozen mushrooms
100g chopped asparagus
1 shallot (small sweet onion), chopped (about 40g)
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp soy sauce
85g turkey escalope, cut into bite-sized pieces
50g cooked ham, cut into bite-sized pieces
25g dairylea or other processed soft cheese

Nutrition Info (assuming you use a spoon to eat up the sauce...)
Calories: 330
Protein: 38g
Carbohydrate: 13g
Fat: 14g
Dietary Fibre: 4g

  • Put the mushrooms, shallot, and asparagus in the case and sprinkle olive oil and soy sauce on top.
  • Add the raw turkey and the cooked ham and finally the dairylea cheese.
  • Close the case, and microwave for 6 and a half minutes until the turkey is cooked.
  • Serve immediately.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Warm Brown Rice Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and Grilled Halloumi Cheese

This is a lovely colourful salad.  Halloumi and pomegranate seeds are a classic summer combination.  The honey balances the saltiness of the halloumi and the sharpness of the red onion. 

Ingredients (serves 1)
70g brown rice (dried)
1/4 red onion (about 50g)
50g pomegranate seeds
1/2 red apple (about 50g)
60g reduced fat halloumi cheese, sliced
30g rocket/rucola leaves
1 tsp honey

  • Change into an old T-shirt and prepare the pomegranate!  Quarter the pomegranate and break away the seeds from the skin into a bowl.
  • Cook the brown rice according to instructions.  Leave to cool slightly.
  • Dice the red onion and rinse under cold water to get rid of some of the juice.
  • Dice the apple.
  • Grill the halloumi slices one side only until they turn golden in colour.
  • Put the rocket, onion, apple, pomegranate seeds, honey and rice into a large bowl and mix together.  (If the honey is the set kind, then melt it first for a few seconds in the microwave.
  • Serve on a plate and top with the grilled halloumi cheese.  Eat whilst still warm.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sweet Chilli Marinated Tuna and Carrot salad

I guess this is a bit like a ceviche actually.  Last night I marinated some fresh cubes of raw tuna and pared carrot for tonight's salad...  The tuna certainly tasted lightly cooked but very tender, and the marinade had also tenderized the raw carrot.  Delicious!

Ingredients (serves 1)
70g fresh raw tuna steak
100g carrot (1 carrot)
30g salad mix of rocket, spinach and watercress (large handful)
juice and zest of 1 lime
1 tsp reduced salt soy sauce
1 tsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
a little cress for garnish

Nutrition Info
Calories: 187
Protein: 18.1g
Carbohydrate: 17.2g
Fat: 5.7g
Dietary Fibre: 4g

  • Cut the tuna steak into small cubes.  
  • Using a vegetable peeler, pare off ribbons of carrot.  Put the carrot ribbons and pieces of tuna into a bowl.
  • In a cup, mix the lime juice and zest, soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce and sesame oil.  Toss with the tuna and carrot until everything is well coated.  Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge overnight.
  • When ready to serve, mix with the salad on a plate and garnish with a little cress.

Honey, Lime and Balsamic Dressed Breakfast Fruit Bowl

This is my favourite time of the year for fruit in Britain, when all the berry fruits come into season and are cheapest.  Of course, they are delicious just as they are, but the marinade releases some of the strawberry juice and gives a sweet balance to the tartness of the redcurrants.

1 nectarine
a handful of strawberries
a handful of blueberries
a sprig of redcurrants
juice and zest of 1 lime
1 tsp honey
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

  • Make the fruit salad the night before.  Wash and dry the fruit. Chop the nectarine and strawberries into bite-sized pieces.  Put the strawberries, nectarine and blueberries in a large bowl.
  • In a cup, make the dressing.  Melt the honey briefly in the microwave for a few seconds if it's the set kind.  Add the juice of 1 lime and 1 tsp balsamic vinegar.  Mix together and toss together with the fruit, so that all the fruit has been covered.
  • Garnish with the sprig of redcurrants and the lime zest, cover with cling film and leave overnight.  If it's hot weather, leave it in the fridge...  If in England at the moment, you can leave it on the kitchen bench!  
  • Bring to room temperature before serving.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mango and Tuna Sashimi Crunchy Vegetable Salad with Sweet Sesame Dressing

 This is a very refreshing summer salad.  the mango has the same melt-in-the-mouth texture as the tuna, and the flavour is brought out by the dressing.  Although it's only 300 calories, I found it quite filling.

If making this outside of Japan, you need to check that the fish is very fresh i.e. caught the same day.  The large Sainsbury's in my town stocks fish that is caught the same day.

Sesame seeds are high in calcium.  A tablespoon of sesame seeds contains about 10% of the RDA for calcium.  However, because of the hard shell, they need to be broken down to make that calcium accessible to the body.  If you can find crushed sesame, so much the better.

Ingredients (per person)
50g very fresh tuna (outside Japan you need to check it's been caught that day - large Sainsbury's in the UK sometimes (often?) do this)
100g celery (2 sticks)
100g cucumber (this is about 1/4 of a British cucumber)
100g mango (1/2 mango)
strips of nori (dried seaweed)
1 tbsp reduced salt soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin
15g ginger paste
15g horseradish sauce (or wasabi to taste)
1 tbsp (approx 10g) white sesame seeds (or better if you can get the crushed ones with more whole sesame seeds for garnish)

Nutrition Info
Calories: 300
Protein: 17.7g
Carbohydrate: 35g
Fat: 8.3g
Dietary Fibre: 6g

  • Make the dressing.  Crush the sesame seeds as much as you can in a pestle and mortar.  You probably can't crush them entirely, but that's OK.  Grinding the seeds releases the flavour and also makes the calcium more accessible to the body.
  • In a cup, mix the soy sauce, mirin, ginger paste, horseradish sauce and ground sesame seeds.  Put in the fridge.
  • Now prepare the salad.  Slice the celery sticks.  Quarter the cucumber lengthways and chop into cubes.  Chop the mango into similar sized pieces to the vegetables.  Chop the raw tuna steak into 1cm cubes.  Put everything into a bowl and mix well with the dressing.
  • You want to eat this salad cold, so if everything hasn't come out of the fridge, you should cover the bowl and put it in the fridge for an hour.  This would also be nice for marinading, for people less impatient than me!
  • Spoon onto a plate or bowl, sprinkle with strips of nori, and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Smoked Mackerel Salad

Ingredients (serves 1)
50g smoked mackerel
100g celery
10g chives
5g dill
50g sour cream
25g horseradish sauce
1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
black pepper to taste
100g iceberg lettuce

Nutrition Info
Calories: 354
Protein: 13.9g
Carbohydrate: 12.2g
Fat: 28.5g
Dietary Fibre: 3.7g

  • Chop the mackerel into bite sized pieces, chop the dill and chives finely, slice the celery.  
  • Mix the sour cream, horseradish sauce and vinegar together.  Add black pepper to taste.  
  • Toss everything together, and serve on a bed of lettuce. Decorate with a little more dill.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pollock with Orange, Fennel and Courgette

Ingredients (serves 1)
1 fillet of pollock (or other white fish)
2 tablespoons of orange juice
1 orange
1/2 bulb of fennel
1 courgette
freshly grated pepper

  • Peel and segment the orange.
  • Thinly slice the fennel and arrange in a microwaveable dish (I use the Lekue steam case).
  • Spoon over the orange juice.
  • Thickly slice the courgette and arrange on top.  Grind pepper over,
  • Cover and microwave for 3-4 minutes.
  • Remove the courgette and arrange on a plate.
  • Put the fish fillet onto the fennel and season with pepper.
  • Cover and microwave for 3 minutes, add the orange segments and microwave for one more minute.
  • Serve immediately.

Vanilla Balsamic Berries

Breakfast this morning! Yesterday I found some real vanilla paste in the supermarket which is a slightly sweetened paste of vanilla extract with seeds, and cheaper than buying vanilla pods.

Any berries you like (I used blueberries, raspberries and blackberries)
1tsp vanilla paste (or the seeds of one pod and a little sugar)
2tsp balsamic vinegar

  • Mix the vanilla paste with the balsamic vinegar and melt in the microwave for one minute.
  • Pour over a bowl of mixed berries and stir to coat.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

All Bran Chocolate Crispies

Since returning to the UK, I've really taken to the Kellogg's Fibre Plus dark chocolate bars.  Each bar is 116 calories and contains 5g of fibre.  However, at £2 for 4 bars, it was becoming a bit of an expensive snack...

So here is my first take on a chocolate fibre snack!

Ingredients (makes 12)
100g unsweetened dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
30g reduced fat butter
100g all bran
50g oats
50g mixed fruit

Nutrition Info per crispie
Calories: 123
Protein: 2.5g
Carbohydrate: 12.3g
Fat: 4.6g
Dietary Fibre: 3.6g

  • Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over a low heat.  
  • Stir in the all bran, oats and mixed fruit.
  • Using cling film, squeeze large teaspoons of the mixture into balls and put in paper cases.
  • Chill in the fridge, then store in a plastic container.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Alison-style Malay-ish all-day breakfast

Malaysian food is fantastic!  In the week I was there, I barely scratched the surface, but I loved everything I tried.

One of the most popular dishes in Malaysia is Nasi Lemak.  This is kind of an all-day breakfast for Malaysian people, so popular there are Chinese and Indian versions of it too.  Of course it was what I had for breakfast every morning, but it was sold at street stalls, cafes and restaurants too.  At its most basic it seems to be coconut rice, with boiled egg, cucumber, fried dried anchovies and peanuts and a powerful sambal which is a chilli condiment.  I often ate it with a beef or chicken curry too.

For the last week or so, I've had Nasi Lemak cravings ;-)
Of course, I know I could make a much more authentic version than this, but wanted to try and limit myself mostly to using up what is in my kitchen (just had to buy coconut milk and peanuts)...  So my version has Thai, Japanese and Korean ingredients too, but misses out the fried anchovies.  Best not to think about the calories too much in this, just enjoy it!  Nasi Lemak actually means 'fat rice' in Malay...

I made this today.  It's my day off so I could afford to spend an hour cooking breakfast (and generate an awful lot of washing up for one person!), and 'twas so filling and tasty it'll definitely serve as lunch too.  I'll have the other portion for lunch at work tomorrow, so that's sorted too!

Ingredients for the rice (1 portion)
75g dried rice
60g coconut milk

Ingredients for the sambal (2 portions) - not so powerful
one medium onion, sliced into quarter rings
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp anchovy paste
1tsp ginger paste
juice of one yuzu
1-2 tbsp kimchi base
1-2tsp Thai sweet chilli sauce

Ingredients for the chicken curry (2 portions)
1 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp Thai curry paste
1 large chicken breast

Ingredients to serve 
Chopped cucumber
Natural shelled peanuts
Hard boiled egg

  • Cut the chicken up into pieces and marinate overnight in the Thai curry paste in the fridge.
  • Boil the egg until hard-boiled and then cool under a cold running tap to avoid a grey yolk.  Peel and quarter.
  • Chop the onion.  Chop the cucumber.
  • Cook the rice as normal with a fraction less water.  When the rice has almost absorbed the water (after about 40 minutes in my rice cooker), stir in the coconut milk and continue to cook.
  • Make the sambal.  Fry the chopped onion and anchovy paste in the olive oil until cooked.  Add the yuzu juice, kimchi base and sweet chilli sauce.
  • Make the chicken curry.  Fry the chicken for 5 minutes until browned and sealed.  Put in a saucepan, cover with water and a lid and continue to cook for 10 minutes until the water is mostly absorbed.  Add 2 tbsp coconut milk.
  • To serve, put the rice on the plate with the boiled egg, chopped cucumber, peanuts, chicken curry and sambal.  Enjoy!