Thrown together Spaghetti in a Smoky Tomato Sauce with Bacon and Chorizo

I had plans for dinner yesterday but time got away from me and I didn’t make it to the shops to get ingredients.  A quick nose through the fridge and the cupboards and I saw I had everything to throw this together.  It was pretty simple.

Fry some smoked bacon and chorizo and put to one side, leaving all the oils from the meat in the pan.  Fry some onions, add garlic, celery, grated carrot, tinned tomatoes and a little smoked paprika and leave bubbling away for 30 minutes or so.

Meanwhile cook your spaghetti. When it’s ready drain and pour into a serving dish. Pour the tomato sauce over the top and then the bacon and chorizo.  Mix it all together and hey presto – a simple meal from the cupboard.

A simple yummy fix me up when you don’t feel like following a recipe from a book.

Normal service will be resumed tomorrow!

Smokin’ Super-bean, Egg and Tuna Salad

Saturday 13th was the eighth leg of our Year and Day Monopoly Board Pub Crawl challenge.

For those of you not familiar with the concept, before you get married there is a tradition of a Stag and a Hen event; where the men all go and do something for their last day of freedom and the women all do the same. Over the years these two events have tended to get merged into one and everyone just goes out together prior to the wedding and has a good old party – usually very much geared towards the consumption of large amounts of alcohol.

If you live in London, are very much inclined to more than just few drinks in the evening, and love a challenge, then Monopoly Board Pub Crawl is the thing to try. Many try. Many fail.

We decided to put our own spin on this event by having a drink (often more) in every pub in every street on the Monopoly Board – instead of the traditional one drink in one pub on each street. We also decided to do one colour of the board per weekend and spread these out over the year – instead of the traditional all 26 streets in one day rule.

Anyway, yesterday we were round to the Yellow part of the board and we had a great time. We also had a fly over from the Red Arrows – although they were perhaps celebrating Trooping the Colour rather than our wedding jolly!

With Browns, Light Blues, Light Purples, Oranges, Reds, Two Stations and now the Yellows complete all that is left is the Greens, the Dark Purples and Two stations and we’ve completed the whole thing!

When we are done we plan to choose our favourite pub from each street and attempt the event in the traditional style – 26 pubs in 12 hours.

Anyway, nothing to do with food !

We had this salad on Friday and it is packed with fibre and protein. There’s nothing to it really. It’s just very tasty and far better and cheaper than anything you’ll get from the pick and mix salad bar in a supermarket.

Simple mix tinned, flageolet, kidney and black eyed beans in a bowl with tinned tuna, tinned sweetcorn, a red onion, a tomato, lemon juice, olive oil, mint, basil, garlic, a green chilli, smoked paprika, and sugar in a bowl and leave for a while to let the flavours develop.

Serve with some sliced spring onions scattered on top and a quartered hard boiled egg on the side.

Personally I think the egg is unnecessary in this dish. You could easily leave it out. It was very filling as it was.

This was really simple and really yummy. And ready in no time at all. All you need is a knife and a tin opener. I didn’t even need that as all my tins were ring pulls!

Very Low Calorie Chicken Caesar 

Last night was dancing night. Rock n Roll at Hedsor Social Club with a live band – Greggie G and his Crazy Gang. It was great to catch up with all our friends that we usually see on a Tuesday when we have a dance lesson with Jumping Jim and V.

If you fancy giving it a go, come along. It’s great.

Before we went out I just had time to knock up two very easy and very tasty salads – this was one.

Most Caesar’s are pretty high in calories and fat but this one from The Superfood Diet was very healthy indeed.

It only has one cooked element; the chicken breast. I just roasted it in the oven for 29 minutes and let it cool down before slicing it

While you’re waiting for the chicken you make a dressing of Greek yoghurt, a small amount of full fat mayonnaise, honey, curry powder, coriander, mint and dill.

All those fresh herbs and a but of curry powder really wake up low fat dishes – which can otherwise really taste dull.

When the chicken is done simply combine some mixed leaves, the chicken, some pitted green olives and half a bell pepper with the dressing and mix well. Finally serve with pistachios.

This comes out at about 150 calories a serving compared to a regular Caesar which tends to push 900 calories. Granted there was no bacon but I didn’t think the dish needed it. And pistachios are far cooler than croutons any day!

This salad was amazing. It was too big in fact. Really tasty and bags of flavour. I loved it.

It’s always nice to be complimented on your weight loss too. Our friends at Hedsor all said we’d lost tonnes of weight. So good like this really works!

Carrot, Walnut and Quinoa Salad

 I had planned on making three dishes tonight but after the amazing Tabbouleh I decided to forget about one of them and just put this really simple carrot salad together.

This is probably the best carrot salad that I’ve ever eaten. What makes it super amazing is the walnuts and the red chilli. Phenomenal.

This salad is also from The Superfood Diet by Gurpareet Bains. New book – two out of two great recipes.

I’d already held back a small amount of cooked Quinoa from the Tabbouleh; and again that is the only cooked element. Putting it together you add walnuts, a red chilli, a shallot, fresh coriander and garlic to mirin, white wine vinegar, and walnut oil. To this mix add your grated carrot and your cooked Quinoa.

I grated half the carrot recommended in the recipe – not out of laziness – I just thought the picture in the book looked too carroty. I wanted to see the Quinoa and the chillies and for it to look more interesting. I think this was a great move.

You serve the dish with some poppy seeds sprinkled over the top. I didn’t have any so I used nigella seeds instead.

Like the Tabbouleh this dish definitely benefits from an hour in the fridge for the flavours to develop. This salad will be seen again at this weekend’s BBQ – weather permitting!

Gluten free Quinoa Tabbouleh

Wednesday night saw us being really naughty and eating a burger in The Railway – a JD Wetherspoons in Putney.  Freya was meeting someone so I waited in the pub patiently with a pretty good pint of Devils Backbone American IPA. Tough as it was I managed.
Today was time to rebalance the scales and have a much lower calorie dinner – just to put us back on track with the diet.

This dish comes from a new cookbook that I only received today – The Superfood Diet by Gurpareet Bains. He has previously published Indian Superfood and it is a great book too so I knew I’d made a good choice.

It’s the first of two dishes we ate today. Both are very low in calories and both very very easy and tasty and good for you.

The only thing you cook in this dish is the Quinoa – unless you fancy cooking your own Puy Lentils. I never do; the precooked stuff from Merchant Gourmet is spot on for this kind of thing – especially given you serve the dish cold. If you cook the lentils you’ll have to cool them!

To the cooked and cooled Quinoa you add Puy Lentils, fresh petite pois, fresh broad beans, a red onion, a spring onion, parsley and mint and mix it all together.

The recipe says you can use frozen peas and broad beans and this will soon be a necessity as the fresh variety will be hard to come by soon.

To the mix you add a really simple dressing of lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and black pepper. I added lots of lemon juice and all the bits still left over – segment skins and all. It made the dressing super lemony.

Finally, stir the dressing into the Tabbouleh and chill for an hour to let the lemons infuse into the salad.

This salad is amazing. So tasty, crunchy, lemony and herby. Really great salad.

We are having a BBQ at the weekend and if we do I’ll certainly make this again as a side.

For my Tabbouleh I used mixed Quinoa which had red, black and white Quinoa combined. Regular quinoa can get a little too fluffy and looks a bit plain on the plate. The mixed quinoa cooks at different rates and you get some interesting textures; it looks prettier too.

Loved this. Will definitely make it again.

Chicken Fatteh

First rule of cooking. Check how long something will take to cook before you start making it. That was my mistake last night – but hey it was good – it was just a late dinner. 

This feast of a recipe is from A Bird In The Hand by Diana Henry. The second dish I’ve made from the book.  I did say all her recipes were simple. This one is simple too – it’s just time consuming as there are many elements to the dish. I think it took me two hours to bring this to the table – but when I did it looked very inviting and comforting.

There are many components to this dish:

  • a tomato sauce
  • the chicken
  • a chicken stock reduction
  • the rice
  • crispy pitta breads
  • spiced aubergines
  • a garlic yoghurt
  • a dressing of nuts and pomegranate seeds

Each component takes a bit of time – and I’m sure with a bigger kitchen and more oven and hob space I could have done many of the elements concurrently. Sadly our tiny galley kitchen on the boat and a small oven/microwave combo can’t really cope and things have to be done one at a time.

This didn’t really matter – we weren’t that hungry and we were ploughing our way through this seasons Australian Masterchef. This season is currently showing in Australia – and I have the means to acquire the episodes. I guess you’ll have to wait if you’re in the UK. It’s very inspiring. Makes me want to move to Australia and get on the show – and use such amazing produce. They have things you just don’t get in the UK like Pigface, Marron and Abalone! They also have the weather – how could you turn that down!

Anyway, as I said before, each of these components are pretty easy to make, just time consuming.

The tomato sauce just needs to cook down to make it really rich and sweet – cut that corner and you’ll spoil the dish. Most people don’t cook tomato sauces for long enough and the full flavour of the tomatoes doesn’t come out. I think mine was cooking down uncovered for 40 minutes.

The chicken is rolled in olive oil, cumin, cinnamon and cloves and oven roasted for 80-90 minutes – but once it’s in it’s in and you can forget about it. When it’s ready you take it out of the oven and leave it to rest under some foil for 30 minutes. By serving time it is so tender it just falls off the bone. I used thighs and drumsticks. I think the darker meat is the better solution here. I imagine 90 minutes of roasting on a breast would really make it dry.

When the chicken is done you scrape the pan down with some water and reduce it to half its volume to get a really nice chicken gravy

The basmati rice is added to some onions that you have previously fried to golden with some butter, more cumin and more cinnamon. You then cook it in chicken stock until it is light and fluffy. The rice was perfectly cooked when it was ready and beautifully fragrant and subtly spicy.

The crispy pitta breads were simply brushed in melted butter and baked in the oven until they were crispy.

The aubergines were fried golden in olive oil with cumin and chilli flakes pressed into the surface. When they are ready you squeeze lemon juice over them. These were great – they’d be great on their own for sure.

The yoghurt was simply greek yoghurt with garlic stirred through and the topping was pine nuts and pomegranate seeds.

You assemble the whole dish in layers of rice, tomato sauce, chicken, coriander and parsley, the gravy, the yogurt and the bread and just keep building it up until it’s all in the serving dish. Finally top with the nuts and seeds.

It was huge. I think I should have realised that it served 8-10 people before I made it! Fortunately I was reserved and only served up two portions.

The rest – well that’s dinner for a few days for sure. But that’s one meal of leftovers I really look forward to eating again.

Would I change anything – probably not. But you could easily leave out the chicken and make this as a salad for a BBQ. You could also probably substitute the chicken for feta or halloumi and make it vegetarian and just run either of those through the salad when you are building up your layers.

This dish is definitely a keeper – I’ll be sure to make this again.

Mexican Griddled Chicken, Sweet Potato and Avocado Salad with Chipotle Mayo

This amazingly tasty dish comes from Diana Henry’s – A Bird In the Hand.  Her style of cooking and the simplicity of her recipes should be a winner for most people that don’t want to slave over meals.

I really like this book.  There was isn’t a thing in it I wouldn’t eat and it is far superior to every other chicken book I’ve ever seen. She also published A Change of Appetite – which I’ve cooked from many times.

This dish combines sweet potatoes, quinoa, avocado and a chipotle Mayo that is to die for – and of course the chicken. The sweet potatoes are phenomenal – they are roasted and then griddle fried with chilli flakes and cumin seeds pressed into them. Amazingly smoky!

It took a while to make and in hindsight I should have marinated the chicken for a lot longer than I did. I only left it an hour but I think the four hours recommended in the book is more reasonable. Even overnight might be better given how basic the marinade is; it only has lime juice, garlic, a small amount of ground cumin and oil.

This could so easily become a vegetarian salad by swapping out the chicken for Halloumi or maybe even just leaving it out. It would be a great companion to a BBQ.

There are many components to this dish but they are all very achievable; perhaps the Mayo will be a challenge for anyone that doesn’t have a stick blender as to need to add the oil gradually so that the Mayo emulsified. Mine split a little – but i didn’t affect the taste.

The only thing I changed in this recipe was leaving the chicken thighs whole with the bone in. This was more through oversight than choice. When I make it again – I which I will – I’ll remove the bone and slice the chicken into the salad. It’ll be a more enjoyable eat this way I think.

I might even consider preparing the chicken with a ras el hanout marinade as I think a punchier chicken might bring more to the dish.