You Can’t Curry Love (or can you?)

I have one cupboard in my house that I absolutely love.  Most people might now start discussing a chocolate or snack cupboard but mine is my spice cupboard.  It is chocked full of herbs and spices and I have always loved it – there is even one very large tin that has the huge bags of spices that might spill out if they were just thrown into the cupboard in it which occasionally I can admit, that I open and just drink in the smell.  Coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom and saffron, a huge bag I bought when visiting my brother and family when they lived in UAE.

Of course the trick to cooking really great food sometimes is about what you add to it – if it can’t be butter, cream and oil then it shall taste better with herbs and spices added. The trick with curries generally is cooking everything well, there are some that you can just throw in and don’t require a lot and then there are others that require just a little more love and attention.  For this dish I use a whole chicken as it is better value but if you prefer you can use drumsticks, thighs or even breast and it works.  I serve this with plain rice as it is just a weeknight supper for us but you can make this into an all out feast and add other dishes and some flavoured rice and breads – just remember to syn those though.

photo chicken curry 6

 

Indian Chicken Stew with Potatoes and Tomato Sauce – Syn Free – serves 6

  • Fry light
  • One whole chicken
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. finely grated ginger
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato puree
  • 2 tsp. garam masala
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • chicken stock
  • Potatoes
  • Coriander

Portion chicken into pieces the same size

photo chicken curry pieces

 

Season chicken with salt and pepper and place skin side down in to the pan sprayed with a little fry light. Cook until golden brown without turning, about 8–10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.

photo chicken curry 3

 

To the same pot, add onion, garlic and ginger, stirring occasionally, until onion is very soft and golden brown, about 8–10 minutes. Add tomato puree, garam masala, cumin, turmeric, coriander, cayenne and cook, stirring often, until tomato paste is beginning to darken, about 5 minutes.

Add chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until chicken is almost falling off the bone and liquid is slightly thickened, about 1 1/2 hours. If using bone-in chicken, remove chicken to a plate and carefully remove chicken from the bone and discard skin and bones. Cut or pull chicken into bite-sized pieces. Return chicken pieces to the pot.

photo chicken curry 5

 

Add potatoes to the pot and cook, partially covered, until potatoes are fork-tender and sauce is thickened, 30-45 minutes. *Check and stir every so often to ensure the sauce hasn’t thickened too much and potatoes aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pan. If sauce is too thick, thin with a bit more chicken stock.

Spoon stew over some warm basmati rice and top with a little coriander.

photo chicken curry 6

My ‘Not so Roly’ Roulade

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I’m lucky that in changing my habits and being determined to lose weight I don’t have that much of a sweet tooth.  Now, don’t get me wrong, if anyone puts a really good chocolate dessert anywhere near me then they had better move away quickly before I eat their hand.  The difference now is that I decide what I eat knowing it has to be worked off somehow – do I sound really virtuous? I’m not meaning to, but it is simple to work out that if we wallow in the guilt of having something we class as ‘bad’ then it generally makes us more miserable and therefore more likely to crave those things.  So a little of what you fancy does you good.  And that still applies even after having the teeny tiny slice of Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart last weekend.  Mr K says his life feels a little ‘bereft’ as he polished off the last piece a couple of nights ago, I’m not sure my suggestion of ‘you had better get on your bike and work some of it off’ went down too well though.

However, I can tell you that on the occasion that you want a ‘proper dessert’ but can’t afford any more syns – and one that’s not yogurt or a small kids chocolate bar (I still can’t get my head around why anyone would want a kids chocolate bar, either they taste rubbish or they are nowhere near enough) then this is the baby for you.  And amazingly, if you are following Slimming World this is half a syn – yes, HALF A SYN FOR THE WHOLE ROULADE.  See, I have your attention now SW members.  And it is so simple that my 10 year old could have made it in 20 minutes (hoping that might be the plan for Mother’s Day this Sunday). The only tip I will tell you is to make sure that you eat it on the same day – although it didn’t last any longer than that, I can’t imagine it lasting overnight without going rather soggy.

And something must be working – I lost 1 1/2 lbs this week.  I’M ON A ROLL (get it?)

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Slimming World Roulade – half a syn for THE WHOLE THING

  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • a tub of quark (250g)
  • 3 tbsp of sweetener (level not heaped)

2 punnets of fruit – I used raspberries and blueberries

  • Separate the 4 eggs into two bowls, yolks and whites
  • Add ½ tub of quark, sweetener, vanilla essence & baking powder to the yolks
  • Whisk into a creamy consistency and put to one side
  • Take the egg whites and whisk until stiff
  • Add half of the egg whites to the egg yolk mixture and stir in gently
  • Then fold the other half of the eggs whites into the mixture
  • Take an oven tray, line line with grease proof paper and spray with fry light
  • Pour the mixture on the tray/paper and bake for 10 minutes until golden brown 180c
  • Whilst warm peel the paper from the cake (gently) and then lay cake out to cool
  • While cooling take the remainder of the quark and add sweetener to taste
  • Spread the quark onto the cake (now cool) and add fruit you are using
  • Then gently roll the cake up into a roll

Cut into 4-6 pieces – or eat the whole cake yourself for ½ a Syn

The Simplest Cous Cous Salad

This salad is absolutely delicious and is a staple in our house when the sun means we have long leisurely lunches in the garden while the kids are playing. Obviously that is me longing for the aforementioned summer to begin.  Looking out of the window the sun is teasing us but when we go outside we realise it’s still spring and much too cold to sit outside yet.  The giant cous cous just adds more texture than small cous cous and you can find it in most shops.  This is one of my ‘better prepared early’ dishes as the balsamic vinegar soaks into the cous cous and everything merges into one delicious dish. I serve this with roast meat or fish.

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Giant Cous Cous Salad – Serves 6-8 as a side – syn free

  • Fry Light
  • Giant Cous cous
  • Chicken stock
  • 2 red peppers, sliced
  • 2 courgettes, sliced
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Good glug of balsamic vinegar
  • Seasoning
  • Coriander

Cook the cous cous in chicken stock (or veg stock if preferred), this will take about 10 minutes and I just cover about 1 cm over the top of cous cous, lid on and it will soak all of the stock up, but keep a close eye on it, you don’t want it to burn.

While this is cooking fry the sliced peppers and courgettes in fry light until just starting to colour and slightly tender.

Cook sliced shallots and garlic until soft.

Throw everything in a serving dish while still hot as it soaks the flavours up. Mix in some coriander and balsamic and seasoning and leave to serve at room temperature.

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A Chocolate Dessert most certainly Not for the Faint Hearted…

There are occasions when a recipe deviates significantly from Slimming World but it’s like a little voice that keeps calling me back to it.  This is one of these recipes.  However, any Slimming World followers, on the same day I made this I also made a virtually syn free roulade so all was not lost. This is, drum roll please, slightly embarrassed me, ‘Chocolate Tart with Salted Caramel and Chocolate Ganache’ – see, I told you, let’s not even pretend that I could work out the syns for this as it would be so high that it would probably blow your weekly allowance of syns. We did have guests over though – that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.  The salted caramel can be made the day before so that it firms enough when poured into the tart shell.

Chocolate Tart with Salted Caramel and Chocolate Ganache – serves about 12 thin slices – syns – we are not going there!

 

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Biscuit base:

  • 300g plain chocolate digestive biscuits
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 125g butter, melted

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Salted caramel:

  • 450g granulated sugar
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 125g salted butter
  • 150ml double cream
  • 1 tsp good quality sea salt

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Chocolate Ganache Topping:

  • 200ml double cream
  • 200g dark chocolate

To make the Salted Caramel:

In a heavy based saucepan mix sugar and water

Stir until the sugar has dissolved

Cook until it becomes a golden caramel colour – this can take up to 15 minutes but keep watching it and stirring occasionally to stop the bottom burning

Working quickly to prevent it burning, add the salt and butter

Carefully pour in the cream. This is a bit dramatic so make sure it is a large pan and you stand well back. Leave to cool and thicken.

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Base:

Melt the butter

Crush the biscuits

Put the crushed biscuits in a bowl and stir in the cocoa and sugar

Add the melted butter and mix together

Press into the base and up the sides of a tart tin – sorry, mine isn’t very pretty.

Leave in the fridge or freezer until the base is firm

Pour in the cooled salted caramel and put back in the fridge or freezer until cold

Cover with chocolate topping

 

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Chocolate Ganache Topping:

Heat the cream until just below boiling point

Break the chocolate into the hot cream and leave for several minutes to melt. Stir until smooth.

I left this out of fridge just slightly too long as you can see the caramel melting slightly.

When cutting the tart, it helps to use a hot knife!

Oh and just to go completely off from my normal threads here is the cardigan I have just knitted for a work colleague – a quick little project for a new baby, cute huh?

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Loving Lulu

I admit I have several things that I cannot resist, cook books, beautiful yarn and gorgeous fabrics.

I have an absolute mountain of cookery books in my house as both myself and Mr K love cooking and we have even put a very comfy chair right next to that specific bookcase.  However, I think he would agree that I am the ‘practical’ cook and he is the ‘glory cook’.  Now, this is no slur on him, he makes fantastic food but I can only really trust him to cook at weekends, partly due to the fact that he has to go out and buy everything he needs for a recipe and seems unable to guerilla cook but also because we would probably have to remortgage if he had to do the shopping.  That’s not taking into account the ‘it’s only a little cream’ conversations we have as he presents something to me – which reminds me, I must tell you about the fantastic syn free steak sauce later on.

I have to admit this recipe is stolen from the brilliant Rick Stein, who stole it from someone else etc etc and we have eaten this for years – I have had to adapt it a little to even make it vaguely Slimming World friendly but it is still a great dish and with a bit of a twist.  It never ceases to amaze me how delicious the dish is. It’s actually named after another chef’s cookery book. Worryingly one of my children decided to call a now deceased hen by the same name which meant that every time I spoke about said Hen, I always thought of cooking her.  Unfortunately a fox got to her first but that’s another story.

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Lulu Chicken – serves 4 adults with a good salad – Around 3 syns per serving

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 inch piece ginger, grated
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 175ml glass dry white wine – 6 syns
  • 6 large tomatoes or a punnet of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
  • large handful torn basil
  • 500g dried pasta – whatever kind you like

Wash out and pat dry chicken and season inside and out, I also spray with fry light.  Put grated ginger into cavity– I don’t even bother peeling the ginger.

Start chicken off in a 230 degree celcius oven for 20 minutes, then take out and turn oven down to 180 degrees celcius.

Pour some of the lemon over the chicken and return it to the oven, I now set my timer and baste the chicken every 20 minutes with the rest of the lemon, then the wine  – it makes a huge difference.

When this is in the oven cut the tomatoes in pieces so they are about half the size of a cherry tomato, you can skin them if you wish but life is too short unless there’s a really good reason.  Then put these in a sieve or colander and toss through some salt to drain some of the water out.

When chicken is about to come out boil the pasta in water until cooked al dente.

Once chicken is resting  I spoon the leftover ginger out of the cavity and back into the roasting tin, but this is an added extra as we love ginger.  I use my fat separator jug and get rid of the fat and then pour the juices back into the roasting tin as this is where all the flavour is – remember this is synned at around 5 syns per 100ml meat juices so is worth measuring – I end up using around 100ml.  Throw in the crushed garlic and put back over the heat.  As soon as this starts to sizzle thrown in the tomatoes and move this around until most of the juices have evaporated and there is a slight caramelised smell.  Add basil, toss again and take off heat.

Cut chicken up – I like to cut this into chunks leaving bone in if you like that (and don’t forget to put any juices back into the roasting tin).  Now remember, this recipe is served WITH the delicious skin but I ALWAYS remove the skin from my piece and pass it across the table to one specific hungry little mouth who adores chicken skin.  If you eat the skin, remember to syn it.

Throw the drained pasta into the roasting tin and toss until coated, serve with the chicken.

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Chick Peas a Go Go!

I adore chick peas, it doesn’t matter how they come actually, in a Dhal, a salad, falafel, dip, any which way.  But I know a lot of people will not have heard of this really simple way of cooking chick peas as a snack – so gorgeous and tasty and incredibly versatile.  You can either use drained canned chick peas for this or you can use dried, just remember to cook them until tender before the next part of the process.  It’s so easy I am giving you 3 recipes in one – Slimming World have recently pointed out that anything you cook that would not be eaten in the normal way (such as potatoes made into crisps – I will give you that recipe another day) are no longer syn free as you will eat many more crisps than you would if you were presented with a whole potato (although a brief  mention that I will happily stand and eat cooked potatoes that have been placed in the fridge whilst looking for something for dinner makes me think this is not strictly true).  Anyway, I therefore am not sure what to syn these as because everything in them is free, but please be aware of how many you are eating.

With all versions – take can/cans of chick peas and drain them or soak and cook chick peas as per instructions if using dried.  Separate into 3 bowls.

Curried Chick Peas

  • Chick peas
  • Curry powder
  • Fry light

Put chick peas on baking tray and place in 180 degree  celcius oven for half an hour (or until they are crunchy to the bite)

Pour hot chick peas into curry powder and fry light to coat, give them a shake and leave them to cool.

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Chick Peas Salty and Sweet

  • 2 tsp sweetener
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

Mix sweetener, salt and cinnamon in bowl

Put chick peas on baking tray and place in 180 degree celcius oven for half an hour (or until crunchy to the bite)

Pour hot chick peas into mixture above and spray with fry light, give them a shale and leave them to cool.

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Chick Peas with Balsamic and herbs

  • Fry light
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbs fresh rosemary and thyme
  • 1 tsp garlic salt

Mix all of the ingredients together and mix with chick peas

Place everything on baking try (don’t worry if there looks like there is too much balsamic – it will soak it up)

Put in 180 degree celcius oven for half an hour (or until crunchy to the bite).

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Remember to keep all of them in airtight containers (if they last that long)

I know which ones are my favourite but which ones would you choose?

A Seaside Treat

At the weekend we decided on a day trip to the seaside – in all fairness we don’t need much persuading if we have somewhere in mind that has shellfish so off we set to Mersea for the day.  With the warmth on our backs and the kids happy because we borrowed a dog from my parents (in the attempt to persuade Mr K we need one) off we went for a walk on the beach.  After building up a great appetite (isn’t it amazing how a couple of tennis balls and a dog can do that – not eating the dog I hasten to add but the exercise required) we set off for West Mersea to buy some oysters and whatever else we could find at the Fish shed that day.  I can’t show you a photo of what we bought as it soon disappeared when we got home.

photo fish pie 1

Suffice to say it involved oysters, mussels, prawns and crabs and was absolutely delicious (and I love the fact that two of my children (7 and 10) tuck into it with as much gusto as us, it’s a bit much to ask the three year old to eat oysters but she’s rather partial to the rest of it).  Astonishingly we had a little left over so decided a fish pie was in order the next day.

photo fish pie 2

This is a syn free version if you use the cheese topping as a HEX A and I make enough to feed a small army as there are a few stages.  However, you could leave out some of the bits and bobs if you want to – it just adds a bit more luxury if you keep them in – not to mention giving you the extra veggies.  I used the extra brown meat from the crab as you can see sprinkled over the top of the fish mix and I can confirm as well as the prawn there are a couple of mussels lurking somewhere.

photo fish pie 3

Mersea Inspired Fish Pie – probably will feed 6 adults – SYN FREE (or syn cheese if not using as a HEX A)

White firm fish

Smoked fish – I used dyed haddock as I couldn’t find natural dyed but you can see quantities Prawns, mussels, crab meat – in fact, whatever else you like

1 onion, chopped

4 carrots, chopped

3 sticks celery, chopped

handful parsley, chopped

1 tsp English mustard or powder

4 eggs, boiled

Bag spinach, wilted

1 lemon, juiced

1 large tub fat free fromage frais or fat free crème fraiche

6 large potatoes, mashed

180g cheddar cheese, grated

photo-fish pie 4

Fry off onion, carrots and celery without colouring for about 5 mins

Leave this to cool while you boil eggs – I do this in a pan with a steamer over the top and steam the spinach at the same time.

When the veg mix is warm stir in HALF of the fromage frais, all of the lemon juice and mustard (remember, if you add fromage frais to a hot mix it will split – if using crème fraiche you won’t have that problem), and season

Layer the uncooked fish in the bottom of a dish, then the eggs and spinach, followed by the veg and fromage frais mixture.

Boil potatoes and mash and then add plenty of seasoning and the remaining half of the fromage frais, I always add a splash of milk at this stage to loosen it a little more, but this is not necessary if you don’t have HEX A left or syn this.

Leave it rough and ready or make a pretty pattern on the top (as my eldest likes to do using the back of a spoon work towards you pressing gently), then sprinkle with cheese (TIP: use the smallest side of the grater as this will go further).

Pop it into a 180 degree Celcius oven for around 30-45 minutes and hey presto – enough to feed an army!

photo fish pie 4