Gently Spiced Sweet Potato and Quinoa Bowls

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Wow I haven’t blogged about food for a long time. Well my New Year’s Resolution is finally getting some attention so I’m back.

My excuse? Well I just haven’t cooked anything new. My wife started a new job (no longer working with me) and it just became easier for both of us to eat at lunchtimes and not really do anything special in the evenings.

Also, a new Wetherspoons opened next door to our office so I’ve been eating junk for 2 months.

But yesterday I decided to stop going out at lunchtimes – get a bit healthier and lose some of the weight I’ve gained. I need to – my wife is losing weight like nobody’s business!

So this dish is the first of many dishes I plan to make from Anna Jones – A Modern Way to Cook. I do like her books – and they please Freya as she wants to eat less meat than we have been doing lately; so expect lots of vegetarian dishes for a while.

This recipe is in the ‘make in the time it takes to set the table’ category – i.e. 15 minutes. I tell you now – that is impossible. It can’t be done – not by me anyway – and I can do the Jamie’s 15 minute meals on time.

Breaking it down this dish is essentially quinoa boiled up in some vegetable stock. When that is done you add that to some spring onions, garlic, sweet potato, carrots and chick peas – which you will have been pan frying for 10 minutes or so to go tender. Oh there’s a little bit or turmeric in there too!

Sweet potatoes and carrots are notoriously unpredictable when it comes to them going soft. It took some time before I considered my vegetables to be ‘ready’ and I love a bit of crunch.

To top it off you fry some spring greens in coconut oil and a squeeze of lemon.

This dish is incredibly tasty. If you are on a budget this is incredibly cheap to make too.

I was planning on serving up two dishes yesterday – the other being a Kale and Crispy Rice dish – but there was plenty here for two with some left over for lunch.

Hopefully I’m back for good this time – and hopefully I’ll lose a stone before I got on holiday in March!

 

 

 

 

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!

Beetroot Buckwheat Risotto

Beetroot Buckwheat Risotto

Where are all the Deliciously Ella recipes I hear you ask. Well – I have been making them – I just haven’t blogged them yet.

This book is a tricky one for me. As are all the dishes I have made so far. The book is effectively a collection of blogged recipes from a lady that needed to change her eating habits to overcome illness. As a consequence Ella has had to cut out lots of good stuff.

I admire her for producing a whole book with the limited ingredients she has at hand but for me I am struggling with the lack of punch or pizzazz that I like to get from the things that I make.

Obviously this is going to put me in the doghouse with many people (especially those that love this book) but it isn’t working for me.

This risotto really isn’t a risotto at all – even though it looks like one. If you follow the recipe to the letter it isn’t particularly tasty either. I found it quite bland. I pepped mine up with a squeeze of lime. I think some coriander and some creme fraiche might be a good addition too!

To make it you roast some beetroots skin on, peel them once they are soft and blitz them in a food processor with coconut milk, lemon juice and seasoning.

While the beetroot is roasting, cook the buckwheat until it is al-dente. Then combine the two ingredients and serve.

It’s very easy to make and I absolutely guarantee it is good for you – just looking at the ingredients will tell you this – but for me there just isn’t enough flavour.

I’ve made four or five things from this book now and the same issue exists with all of them. My tastebuds just want more – so I usually add something else to liven it up.

That said Freya says she feels much better, less bloated and generally healthier this week – so this does seem to be having an effect.

My experience in the past is that low fat or diet books (not that this is really either of those) tend to cut out so much that the food is dull. You just know it’s low fat and it leaves you wanting. Not that this should be a problem for most – it just doesn’t float my boat.

One thing Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Hemsley and Hemsley and the Honestly Healthy girls achieved is both the light and health without sacrificing the great flavours and textures. For me this book falls down in this area.

Don’t let that put you off. One man’s meat is another mans poison!

Baked Onions and Savoury Porridge

Baked Onions and Savoury Porridge

Yes you read it right. Savoury porridge!

One of the more curious offerings in Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage Light and Easy cookbook – this recipe was potentially the dud in the book. I remember making practically everything in one of Ottolenghi’s books once and then tried something with Verjus and it make me think ‘well you can’t always get it right’. This recipe for me could have been that recipe.

But it wasn’t – it was very good indeed. Freya looked puzzled – and a little cautious but she liked it too.

We ate quite late today having gone to the gym after work – I didn’t start making it till 8:30pm and it is quite time consuming. Fortunately we were watching the film ‘Locke’ – another film I thoroughly recommend you watching. It only has one person in it and he drives a car from Birmingham to London for the duration of the film. Curious!? Give it a go!

To make this you top and tail some big onions (leave them in their skins) and roast them on a bed of oil, thyme and sea salt until they caramelise. The you add bay leaves, and garlic, wrap in foil and bake for even longer this time until they are tender. This took about an hour.

Take the onions out and keep them warm. Add stock to the herbs and oil and then make a porridge as you usually would – stirring for about 10 minutes, checking the seasoning along the way. While the porridge is cooking, toast some hazelnuts and chop a little parsley.

Then you’re done. Just serve the porridge with a couple of onion halves, a few crushed hazelnuts and the parsley.

It’s very much like a risotto. Quite creamy despite there being no dairy. Much like the ‘actual’ risotto I made the other day it feels like it’s got cream in it but it hasn’t at all.

This really was better than I expected and I would probably make it again if I was having someone round just to see them raise their eyebrows in disbelief. If it were just for me I would probably give it a miss as it takes too long to make and I much prefer the oven baked risotto I made the other day.

That said. How often do you only have onions and porridge in your cupboards! Pretty sure it could be an emergency meal!

Carrot and Mung Bean Salad

Carrot, Feta and Mung Bean Salad

 

Another dish from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More, I made this last night after we’d already had our evening snack of halloumi wraps.

We eat out at lunchtime way too often for my liking and every time it costs us over £10. It soon adds up – and it eats into the day. It’s rare that we can go out for lunch in less than an hour. Worse than that we never eat healthily at lunchtime. Fast-ish food is never that going to be healthy in Hatfield.

I knocked this up pretty quickly (maybe 35 minutes) whilst watching the new David Attenborough series ‘Life Story’. You have to see it – it’s shot in 4K – gorgeous photography!

Anyway, this recipe is quite easy – finding dried mung beans is the hardest bit. I found mine in a turkish supermarket. I’ve since been assured that many indian shops stock them.

Cook some mung beans in water until they are done but still have some bite. While they are simmering away, cook some carrot batons in very little water with a little sugar and salt.

When both the mung beans and the carrots are nearly done, fry some fennel seeds, caraway seeds and cumin seeds in a little olive oil until they pop.

Drain the mung beans, add the popped seeds and toss together with some garlic, white wine vinegar and chilli flakes. Let is cool down.

Finally, add the carrots, chopped coriander, lemon zest and diced feta and gently toss together with a little more olive oil.

This really is a tasty dish and one I will be making often. It’s very filling, has many textures and is very colourful. Leaving it overnight to allow the garlic and vinegar to soak into the beans makes all the difference.

Ottolenghi strike again. I’m really looking forward to making ‘Red Onions with Walnut Salsa’ on Thursday when I cook again.

Tuesday’s is now ‘Free Sausage and Mash’ with a pint night in the ‘Horse and Groom’ in Old Hatfield. You really can’t turn that down ! We had it last week and the sausages were excellent – coming a close second to the amazing gravy that covered them !

Fregola and Artichoke Pilaf

Fregola and Artichoke Pilaf

Artichokes twice in a week. And why not!

This is another great recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More.

Now I’ve made everything I set out to make from the first 100 pages of the book. Today I looked at the next 75 pages and have already earmarked another 15 dishes. This is one seriously good book.

Since buying this book I’ve bought many more but it doesn’t look like I’ll be getting to them anytime soon as this book is so so good. Even pouring loads of vinagrette over the book by accident hasn’t reduced by excitement. If only I had PDF’d it sooner – then it would have just been an iPad that needed to be wiped clean!

Ottolenghi says in his book that this isn’t as exciting in appearance as most of his dishes. I disagree. It looks great. More importantly it tastes fantastic and is pretty easy to make providing you have all the ingredients.

Fregola isn’t something you just find on the shelves of every supermarket. I ended up ordering mine from Amazon as Ocado were out of stock.

Fregola is essentially Giant Couscous. It comes in many guises:

– Iranian Couscous
– Moghrabieh
– Giant Couscous

They are all essentially the same although moghrabieh is quite a bit larger than fregola and does take more time to cook.

Anyway, back to the recipe.

This dish is made all the better with the garnish of a green chilli pesto which you drizzle over the top when you’re ready to eat.

The pesto is simply some green chilli, olive oil, preserved lemon, parsley and garlic all blitzed together until almost smooth. My trusty Nutribullet came into action again and did a great job.

The Pilaf is very easy to make too – and doesn’t take that long.

Caramelise some onions and then add some butter, the fregola, artichokes and stock and cook until the fregola has absorbed all the liquid.

Stir in some torn Kalamata olives, toasted flaked almonds, red wine vinegar and chopped parsley and you’re done.

I can’t praise this dish enough. I could eat this everyday. It is very tasty and really hits the spot – and is very filling.

It keeps well too – in fact it tasted better the next day when we reheated it for lunch at work. I guess all those flavours just infused even more into the fregola!