Surely December means Nonconformist Christmas Pud

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At the risk of putting some of you off of me rapidly can I just say that I did leave this post until we were in December, which is more than happens for the actual making of the Christmas pudding which is always made on Stir Up Sunday in November and is the last Sunday before Advent.  I took a quick peek at Wiki and apparently 2/3rds of British children have never stirred a Christmas Pudding so I do exactly as my Mum did (and it’s the same bowl) and we all have to be in the house when then pudding is made.  The children do most of the making and then comes the stirring and wishing part.  Hopefully this is building lovely memories for them but I can probably say that the sheer volume of chocolate orange on Christmas morning is probably what builds the memories over Christmas.  Still, I shall continue.  I wanted to tell you about this as there is still time to make it before Christmas and you just leave it in a cool place until Christmas Day.

I used to always made a traditional Christmas Pudding but a few years ago I came across a Nigella recipe for her Nonconformist Christmas Pudding.  A traditional one was ok, but was too heavy and we rarely wanted it after Christmas lunch and then it was forgotten about.  This one is much lighter and a complete alternative.  It also doesn’t have suet so vegetarian’s will be happy.  A Chef one said it was the best Christmas pudding he had ever eaten and my in-laws tell me that it was lovely cold with cheese on Boxing Day.  So, whatever floats your boat folks. I always chop and change this recipe a bit, normally with the fruit or what type of booze is used so do what you like to suit you.

My food processor broke while I was doing this so most of it was hand chopped – pssst, it’s on my christmas list Mr K…

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Nonconformist Christmas Pud

  • 300g dried figs
  • 175g dried cranberries
  • 225g currants
  • 150ml brandy
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 100g breadcrumbs
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 50g cocoa
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 150g dark soft brown sugar
  • 3 small eating apples
  • 3 large eggs
  • 142ml pot sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 175g dried blueberries

Butter a 2.5 litre pudding basin.

Chop figs in a processor and put in a pan with cranberries, currants and brandy.  Bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes.  Spoon butter on top of fruit and put lid on, leave it to simmer for another 10 minutes and the butter to melt into it.

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Measure breadcrumbs, almonds, cocoa, flour, baking powder, bicarb and sugar into a bowl.

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Quarter and core apples and thrown them into the processor (no need to clean it between blends).  Add them to dry ingredients and then add the dried fruit and butter – now your entire house will smell like Christmas.

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Break eggs into a bowl, add sour cream, vanilla and spices – you can do this in the blender again to save on washing up and throw into the bowl with everything else.

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Mix all of this together with a wooden spoon once you have put the coins into the mix (we have one coin per person for our family and each throws their own in), each person must take a turn to mix it and make a wish.

Steam this over a pan of water for about 2 hours – my pan isn’t big enough so I put a lid on and wrap the sides in foil but check the water hasn’t boiled dry and top up when it needs it.

You can then store this, covered, in the fridge until Christmas when I steam this for another couple of hours – but steam it for as long as you like, as long as the water isn’t boiling dry it really doesn’t matter.

Then turn it out onto a large serving plate, douse liberally with more booze, vodka is used in our house, set light to it and present to the table. I always always serve this with Cornish clotted cream and homemade brandy butter – hmmm, I’m sure I said this wasn’t rich!

Sorry, no pic of the finished pudding, it’s happily sitting in the fridge awaiting it’s unveiling!

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‘Cause we are living in a Vegetarian World

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Recently we decided it might be a good idea to eat a bit more vegetarian food.  Mr K is a dedicated carnivore so he did think this might be a bit of a challenge for him.  It was decided, Monday to Thursday vege, weekend fish or meat.

As it turns out it’s not been that tricky and I think it must have seriously helped with dropping a few lbs in my case as otherwise my diet hasn’t changed significantly.

It was as I realised we had exactly the same meals, on the same night for a couple of weeks that this came into action.  This dish, Mr K exclaimed, was the first one that he didn’t actually miss meat in at all.  When questioned he said all the other ones have been nice but had thought ‘that could have been better alongside a steak’ or similar.  So I’m taking that as a compliment, and the children liked it too, always a bonus.

Oh, and middle Miss K made me take a photo of the squash at that angle as ‘it looked like a bum’ giggle giggle!

 

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Blackbean and Squash Chipotle Chilli – serves 4 very hungry adults – syns less than 1 per serving

  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 large red pepper, chopped
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 1 tsp hot smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½+ tsp chipotle chilli paste (add more bit by bit but be warned this can be very fiery)
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • vegetable stock (either fresh or cube)
  • fresh coriander

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Fry off the onion, pepper, butternut squash and garlic in fry light.

Once the onions start turning translucent, turn the heat down. Add all of the spices and canned ingredients, and stir. Cover for about one hour, stirring occasionally. Taste test for spice level and add more chipotle if you wish.

This is cooked when the sauce has thickened and the squash is cooked through.  See Easy!

I served this sprinkled with fresh coriander and with wild rice but Mr K had some tortilla and avocado sprinkled over the top too which he said was delicious.

Celeb Promotion and Scandi Cinnamon Buns

DSC_0500So things took a very exciting turn after my last post.  I tweeted Gizzi Erskine to tell her what a great recipe her Korean Lamb Shoulder was and she retweeted my blog which caused much excitement in my house.  My kids were updating my blog stats oh, about every 3 seconds, and they were watching the numbers tick up and up, oh, the power of celebrity eh, my normal ticking over of views was exceeded significantly and even my best ever 1 day stats were overtaken 3-fold.  Of course I wasn’t the slightest bit excited, honestly!  Well maybe a little, if snatching the phone from 11 year old counts.

Therefore, if you found me from the Gizzi tweet then thanks for following me and welcome, and if you are one of my older followers (in the nicest way possible obviously) then thanks for still being there.

I’m deviating slightly from my normal Slimming World recipe today.  Those of you who read my blog because of that don’t panic, it’s not a permanent thing but just to prove I do actually make food other than the stuff I can adapt to suit my diet.  And we all have to live in the real world don’t we, the odd cake and delicious, irresistible bread comes along and we shouldn’t feel bad for having it.  As Mr K says ‘everything in moderation’, although he always adds ‘including moderation itself’, but let’s not discuss that bit, that’s how I got to the weight I used to be.

I have been on a bit of a roll weightloss wise recently (well for me) and now am only 9 lbs away from target.  I had to go shopping for a dress last week and I have found out I am a size 12 – I want to keep the tag on it so everyone can see, or maybe wear it inside out (that wouldn’t look at all odd would it?), can’t believe I’m nearly there.

So here is one of those delicious breads, it’s similar to a Chelsea bun but very simplisticly it’s without the raisins and including cardamom and perfect with my Hot Chocolate for the Gods.  The children barely let me set them down on the table before they were tucking in with yums and oohs, I’m guessing they went down well.

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Scandinavian Cinnamon Buns – makes 16 – 12 syns each

  • 300ml milk
  • 1 tsp cardamom seeds
  • 50g butter
  • 425g plain or strong plain bread flour (I use the bread flour as it makes these a bit lighter and a little chewier)
  • 7g fast action yeast
  • 60g caster sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 egg

For filling:

  • 75g soft butter
  • 50g sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Finish:

  • 1 beaten egg
  • Sugar, for sprinkling

Put  milk in a pan, add the cardamom seeds and bring to just below the boil. Take off the heat, stir in the butter and leave to infuse until it is just warm.

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Mix together all the dry ingredients in a bowl. When milk is warm rather than hot, make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the egg. Stir in, then strain in the milk and stir together to make a soft dough which comes away from the edge of the bowl.

Tip on to a lightly oiled work surface (you don’t want to add more flour to the mixture) and knead for around 10 minutes – DO NOT add more flour, I promise it will come together.  It’s really good if you have a dough scraper though as it really does stick but the more kneading the better and it is still a little soft when you leave it to rise. Oil the bowl, then return the dough to it. Cover and leave somewhere warm for 30-45 minutes ( I have a bit of a trick here.  As my kitchen is sometimes on the cool side I warm up teatowels in the microwave and wrap them around the bowl, see below, it’s under all of that).  I’m sure Paul Hollywood would have something to say but gorgeous old Blue Eyes isn’t in the kitchen with me so what he doesn’t see won’t hurt him.

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Roll the dough out on the lightly floured surface to a rectangle whatever size you want.  Remember, the smaller the rectangle, the less buns you can get from it. Smear the butter out across the dough (use your hands for this), then sprinkle with sugar and then cinnamon being as generous as you like, starting from one of the long edges, roll the dough up tightly like a swiss roll. Cut this into 16 slices.

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Arrange these in tins, evenly spaced out, cover, and leave to prove for about 30 minutes, until the dough springs back when prodded gently.  Brush with eggwash and sprinkle with more sugar.

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Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark six. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Arancini the Healthy Way

DSC_0079This is one of my all time favourite Friday night dishes.  My K often makes himself a pizza on a Friday so this is the perfect recipe to use up his leftover tomato sauce.  You do have to be a little organised as I always use leftover risotto from the night before too.  To be honest, it’s not really leftover, I’m just greedy so always make way too much but what a perfect way to use it up rather than just re-heating. And as is my normal gluttonous style I also make too many of these, but again that’s perfect.  I am very well known for opening a fridge door and standing and eating things whilst deciding what it is I really want, so to have these in the fridge over the weekend is a life-saver.

I do have an admission with these – as I made the tomato sauce from scratch instead of using Mr K’s, and as Mr K had not arrived back from work with basil I added a bit of bbq spice to the sauce instead of basil – not sure why on earth I would think that an appropriate substitute, but it was rather nice.  I have to say that if Mr K reads this he will say ‘I don’t make my pizza sauce base like that’ whilst looking at me accusingly, so there’s my admission.

The reason these are healthy is purely because I use wholemeal breadcrumbs and they are cooked in the oven.  Technically these should be deep fried so if that’s your bag then go for it, but if you follow Slimming World or are healthy eating then give these a go.

And WOW, 2 blog posts already this week.  Sometimes I can be organised!

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Arancini the Healthy Way – serves as many as you fancy – syns 0 (make sure you syn this if you are not using bread and parmesan as HEX A & B)

  • Leftover risotto – see ‘Singing Aida‘ for a great basic risotto

For tomato sauce:

  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp sweetener
  • 1 tsp bbq spice mix (optional)
  • 1 can tomatoes, or bottle passata
  • Wholemeal breadcrumbs, blitzed in food processor until fine
  • 2 Eggs

Throw all of the tomato sauce ingredients into a pan and simmer for about 10 minutes until reduced, thickened and everything has cooked through.

Beat the eggs in a bowl

Put breadcrumbs in bowl

Make the chilled risotto into balls (about golf ball size)

Roll these in the eggs, then the breadcrumbs, put on baking parchment, spray with frylight and cook in a 180 degree C oven for about 20-30 minutes or until lovely and brown, turning if necessary.

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Serve with rocket and some of the sauce and a sprig of basil on the top (see, the basil did eventually arrive) and a lovely glass of red wine.

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A Trip Along the Grand Trunk Road – Part 3 Aloo Dimer Jhol

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This is the final part of this curry feast and I hope you agree that all of the dishes can stand up to being served either on their own or as part of a varied feast. I was somewhat outside of my comfort zone with this one, although I love eggs I have never used them as the main ingredient in a curry but I think it was a triumph and would urge you to give this one a go.

I yet again have to apologise for the presentation and photography – late Saturday night and I might have had a glass of wine which means I become a little less careful (in fact, it sort of gets thrown at the table at that stage) ‘hangs head in shame’.

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Aloo Dimer Jhol – serves 2 – syn free

  • 4 small potatoes
  • 4 hard boiled eggs
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 inch piece ginger
  • 1 large green chilli
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander

Slice potatoes lengthways.  Spray pan with frylight and shallow fry potatoes over a low heat until cooked through.  Set these aside and fry eggs, whole, for 2-3 minutes and set aside.

Put garlic, chopped onions and tomatoes in blender and puree.  Set aside.

To the empty pan add bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and cloves and cook for a couple of minutes.  Add the tomato and onion puree, cover and cook on a medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the turmeric, cumin, chilli powder and salt.  Add 250ml water and simmer for about another 10 minutes until this has thickened.  Add the potatoes and eggs and cook for a further 5 minutes.  Serve sprinkled with fresh chopped coriander.

 

Moroccan Jewelled Delight

 

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One of the things I love is picking veggies from our veg plot.  It seems sometimes that is the only place I can get peace and quiet.  I used to put music on and weed, dig and plant but now I relish the solitude and listening to the birds and the wind through the trees.  Only the occasional offering of polite greeting to an allotment neighbour disturbs my peace, or the occasional advice request (me doing the asking I hasten to add, I’m not naturally green fingered).  Quite proud this year of the fact that we have 2 rows of fennel happily growing which I have never grown before.

My plot is certainly by no means a thing of beauty but I can take the children down and they absolutely love digging up potatoes or picking beans or courgettes, getting a little conveyor belt going, big Miss K digs, little Miss K grabs the potatoes and Middle Miss K gets to count them into the trug.  All of this said, one of the best veg is rainbow chard, and luckily you plant it, it grows, as long as it has enough water and sun, it just grows, no fussing over it, no picking out smaller plants, and look how pretty it is, it looks like jewels glinting in the sunlight.

This dish was inspired both by the butternut squash, which seems to have been frequently used in the last week in my house as I made Curried Squash soup with lentils and then another squash appeared and I just thought the colour, along with the chard was a thing of beauty.  Chard has such a lovely earthy quality that it really suits being served with the sweetness of the squash.

I don’t often use pastry nowadays as I adore it and if it is in front of me, I would generally eat too much of it, but 3 of these little beauties are made out of one filo pastry sheet and you spray with frylight so you can really control your syns if you follow Slimming World.  I did try making one by rolling a whole sheet around the cooled mix like a sausage roll and then winding it round like a snail but it did not look particularly pleasant and was rather unwieldy but give it a try if you have more patience that I.

The only other thing to remember is to make sure is that everything is about the same size dice, remember, these are delicate things and not like a whacking great big pie.

 

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Moroccan Inspired Filo Tartlets – Serves 6 – syns per 3 tartlets – 6

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 butternut squash, diced
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • rainbow chard or spinach, chopped
  • 1 tbsp ras el hanout
  • 1 tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 0% greek yogurt
  • handful fresh mint leaves
  • 1 pack Just-roll filo pastry (just remember to check syns depending on type of filo used)

Fry off onions and garlic in fry light until softened

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Add butternut squash, then all of the spices and stir to coat, adding seasoning

 

Add enough water to cook the squash, which will take about 15 minutes with the lid on, but not so much that the mixture is wet at the end, no running sauce in this dish

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At this stage you can either keep this warm while you cook your filo or you can leave it to cool and reheat later

Spray a muffin tin well with frylight

DSC_0064Lay 1 sheet filo on a board, spray liberally with frylight and then cut into 3 squares and place them as you wish in the muffin tin

Place these into a 180 degree C oven for about 5 minutes or until lightly browned

Remove from oven and put warmed mixture into the tarlets

Serve with 0% Greek Yogurt mixed with seasoning and chopped mint and a green salad

 

It’s a Humous Day

DSC_0924 What an amazing time we had watching Le Tour de France leave Cambridge – a lovely sunny day, we visited all of the fun activities first thing in the morning and then cycled out to just past the start line, catching the ‘caravan’ which were lots of advertising cars throwing all sorts of odd things out of them (my children managed to accumulate a fold up frizbee and a blow up guitar amongst other things – how random).   Then we saw the pack coming towards us, the riders all got up on their haunches and flew past us in a haze of speed. It was great, and just lovely being able to cycle through the main roads of Cambridge without having to pay much attention to the children cycling safely as the roads were closed to vehicles – I don’t think they could quite believe it either, something they have never been able to do.  However, with all of the positives there is always a negative and that was I put on 4lbs – oops.  I had treated it like a Bank Holiday as we all had the day off, it was so hot I felt I just had to participate in a glass or two (or 3) of wine.  Then there was lunch out – see, now I’m writing it down I know exactly what happened don’t I – but that’s fine, it’s the scenic route again, no problem.

Mr K went off to the cricket a few days later so it was only me to feed once the kids had gone to bed.  It really was a hot evening so I couldn’t face much, but I also know that risking no food I may well head for a disaster of being hungry late at night, so I decided on making humous, not just any old humous but one with onions, which both bulks it up and gives it lots and lots of flavour – you really do have to like onions, probably quite lucky that I was on my own as I may have been rather unsociable if anyone else was around.

I still had my HEX B left so toasted a couple of pieces of brown toast, then I sliced them on a board so it actually makes 4 pieces and then toast the cut sides until crispy and it makes them like melba toasts – delicious.  Then I had some cucumber and carrots sticks and it was addictive, standing by the cool fridge and just eating – thank goodness I had decided on that, otherwise it really might have been a disaster!

And it must have worked – the 4lbs had gone by the following week – onwards and upwards, or rather, downwards!

N.B.  You can leave the tahini out of this and add water to make it right consistency but I’m afraid there is nothing to beat the tahini really (you can add up to 3 tbsp if you are happy with the syns!) DSC_0926 Balsamic Onion Humous – syns – 4 for the whole lot

  • 2 medium yellow or sweet onions, thinly sliced
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sweetener, divided
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, divided
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 3 tablespoons reserved liquid from can of chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoons tahini paste (4 syns)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Really good squeeze fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Water (optional for consistency)

Cook onions in a frying pan in frylight with sweetener added.  Season with a bit of salt. Spread onions out across the pan and let cook, stirring every few mins, until softened, about 20-30 minutes total. In last 10 mins add 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and stir to coat. Once they are caramelized to your liking, remove from pan.

Save a small amount of onions to top the hummus later, if desired. Add the rest to the large bowl of a food processor.

Reserve about 3 tablespoons of liquid from the chickpea can and drain and rinse the rest of the chickpeas.

Put 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and let simmer until reduced to a thick, syrupy liquid, about 1-2 tablespoons worth. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add to the food processor the chickpeas, liquid from the chickpea can, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon sweetener, salt, and pepper.

Process until smooth. Adjust to taste, adding water if you want to loosen consistency.

Serve hummus topped with reserved caramelized onions and drizzle with the balsamic reduction.