Saturday, 2 July 2011

Martijn Kajuiter Night

So tonight I cooked 3 dishes from the Cliff House Hotel Ardmore cookbook...3 very clever and extremely tasty dishes from head chef  Martijn Kajuiter. I've got to give big kudos to my friend @ConalM who introduced me to this food.

All of these are what I would describe as healthy food. In the first course, I didn't use cream as per the recipe and just used full fat milk instead. It was delicious.

1st Course - Wild Mushroom Bread and Butter Pudding, Baked Wild Mushrooms, Truffle Oil and Micro Greens

2nd course - Scallops with Asparagus 3 ways...boiled, tempura and in a jelly, with a scallop roe foam, some prawn dust as seasoning

3rd Course - Strawberry Plate - Strawberry Shot with Mint foam, Stawberry tempura on a chocolate paint, Strawberry sorbet with dehydrated strawberry slices, marinated strawberries in balsamic and black pepper, strawberries in caramel.

Yvonne (my wife) loved this meal. We had a bottle of Sancerre to go with it and the whole thing was lovely. I would say that the recipes were very good but they do assume a certain base knowledge...not for beginners!!

I just loved the ideas. I've discovered Soy Lechitin. I normally just use gelatine and a nitro canister...this is a good new technique. The agar agar asparagus jelly was also very good, it worked very well and was easy to handle.

Myself and Yvonne will grab a weekend in the Cliff House this Autumn, can't wait to try....and I hope I get to meet Martijn, a real food hero.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Ice cream...well sort of

Found this idea for ice cream substitute which actually was really very nice. Take 2 or 3 bananas and slice them up. Put them into a freezer bag along with some berries of your choice. (I used summer fruits) and freeze over night. Next day, take the bag out of the freezer and let it thaw for about 25 to 30 minutes. Put the fruit into a blender and whizz until smooth. I added a little bit of water to get it going.

The result is a smooth soft scoop type ice mixture which is quite like ice cream, except without any of the calories!! A bit of honey might be nice too...I think I'll try that next time. Definitely a great way to get at least 1 of your 5 a day!

Thursday, 30 June 2011

My Lower Fat Chicken Tikka Curry

I love curry but a Chicken Tikka Masala or Korma type curry from the takeaway is 650 calories just for the meat and sauce. When you add in rice, Nan bread, papdoms etc, you're going to hit well over the 1200 calories mark. My curry here is about 300 calories per portion. Add in a portion of rice, some low fat yoghurt riata, a little onion, tomato and cucumber salad...half a Nan bread and you're looking at 600 calories without losing too much taste.

I make it at least once a week and it does take a bit of time. My Dad had Indian business partners for 20 years and he also loves Indian food, so Sunday dinners or family occasions were mostly an Indian buffet feast with loads of meat and vegetarian dishes spread out on the table along with riata, chutneys, salads and Indian breads. I've also been lucky enough to visit India about 5 times now and as a foodie, I loved trying dishes and talking food with the locals, who were always happy to share.

The secret to a great Indian curry, apart from the obvious spices, is the onions! Browning the onions at a decent heat for about 10 minutes till they are caramelised, nutty brown, with little burnt edges is the basis to any Masala or gravy. The other thing is marinating the meat overnight. I cook my meat and sauce separately so the sauce is reduced and complex and the chicken juicy and not overcooked.

I make this recipe to serve 10 to 12 portions. We use 2 straight away and freeze the rest in individual portion bags...really handy for a busy day at work or in anticipation of a Friday night craving. If you don't care about calories, then go for it and triple the amount of Ghee, Coconut milk and Cashew nuts being used and add in a big dollop of mango chutney to get a much richer flavour.

Recipe (makes 10 to 12 portions)
Chicken Tikka
Marinade overnight in a sealed container in the fridge
·         1.5 kg Chicken breast cut up into decent sized chunks that won’t dry up in the oven
·         150g Glenisk Low Fat Yoghurt
·         3 tbsp Tandoori Masala powder
Masala Sauce
·         3 tbsp Ghee or clarified butter
·         400g Onions, sliced
·         2 medium red Chillies (deseeded and finely chopped)
·         3 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
·         3 big cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
·         4 cardamom pods, crushed and green husk removed to leave the seeds
·         2 bay leaves
·         2 inch piece of cassia bark or cinnamon stick
·         800g chopped tomatoes (this is 2 standard tins)
·         165g can of coconut milk
·         50g cashew nuts
·         1 portion of Home-made curry paste
·         750ml Chicken Stock
·         80g fresh coriander
Home-made curry paste
·         1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
·         2 tsp Tomato Puree
·         1 tbsp ground cumin
·         1 tbsp ground coriander
·         2 tsp turmeric
·         1 tsp Garam Masala
·         ½ tsp Chilli Powder (less or more according to degree of spiciness required)
·         ½ tsp salt
Mix everything to a reddish brown paste

Make the Masala or curry sauce by heating the Ghee over a medium to high heat, add the bay leaves, cassia bark and cardamom and fry off in the oil for a minute. Add the onions and brown for ten minutes, stirring often until golden nutty brown. Add the chilli, garlic and ginger and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the curry paste and cook out for 2 to 3 minutes stirring constantly. You can add a little stock to the pan to loosen the mixture if it starts to dry out in the pan. You should be left with a fragrant, reddish brown pasty onion mixture. Add in the tomatoes and cook until boiling, add the stock and reduce for about 15 minutes on a medium to high heat to concentrate the flavours and let the spiced onion mix infuse into the stock and tomatoes. Mix in the fresh coriander. Important - Take out the cassia bark and bay leaves before blending. Using a stick blender blitz the sauce to a smooth think consistency. Taste and season with salt and more chilli powder if that’s your thing. Put the cashew nuts into a food processer (or use a stick blender), add a little water and blitz to a smooth paste. Add these to the sauce. Add the 165g can of coconut milk. Finally, taste the sauce again and correct the seasoning for a final time.
Whilst the stock is reducing you can be cooking the chicken Tikka. Heat the oven to its highest setting, mine is 250 degrees C but higher would be better. Place the marinated chicken on a baking tray, evenly spread out with space between each piece. Use 2 trays if you’re doing the full recipe. It’s important not to crowd the tray. I normally pre-heat my trays whilst the oven is heating up. Cook the chicken for about 10 minutes but check the biggest chicken piece by cutting it open after about 8 minutes just in case your oven is a bit hotter. The chicken should be cooked through (no pink) but you should still be able to see plenty of moisture in the meat. There’s nothing worse than dry over-cooked Tikka.
To serve I just do a little basmati rice, some low fat Glenisk yoghurt riata (made with yoghurt and shop bought mint sauce), a chopped red onion, tomato and cucumber salad and a Nan bread (I get Taza brand Tandoori Nan from my local Asian supermarket, the supermarket big brand Nan breads are terrible. I also don’t make them myself as you really need a Tandoor or Pizza oven to do them any justice at all)

Hope someone tries and enjoys this. Please leave a comment and let me know.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Day 2 - Smoked Mackrel for lunch

Ok, so that was one of the tastiest lunches I've had in work for ages. I used to get a sandwich from a great local deli called McCabes.. good value in comparison to other places as well...€3 for a basic sandwich, €3.80 for home cooked rare roast beef and 3 salads. But, the bread's too nice & thick, I'd always get coleslaw and I'd get a bag of crisps as well, way too many calories. And anyway, €3.80 times 5 days equals €19 a week on lunches, plus the crisps and never mind the 8 or 9 coffees at €1.70 a pop...I digress.

Last night I spent 15 minutes making up a lovely salad of watercress, rocket, organic beetroot, celery, tomatoes, fennel, radish, a spoonfull of pureed avocado and some smoked mackrel. Dressing was just a table sppon of olive oil, some red wine vinegar, dijon, dash of honey, salt and pepper. I had one slice of wheaten bread. I brought the bits in seperately and assembled in work....ok, so my photography via blackberry doesn't show it off to it's best, and the avocado was partly rescued from the slightly brown stage but it was bloody nice!

Had porridge again for breakfast, a few blueberries thrown on top. Suppose I better keep track of the cost of all of this as well...I wonder how much eating healthy and tasty will cost versus convenience and calories.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Ottolenghi Broccoli

So, this is a staple in my house, introduced to me by friends Conal and John on a trip to London ... Ottoloenghi's Chargrilled Broccoli with Chilli and Garlic. It's great hot, cold or warm. I had it tonight with some baked Salmon. According to Otttolenghi, people travel accross London for this stuff, it's one of his most iconic dishes.

Just to make it a little healthier, I reduced the Olive Oil from 60 mls to 30 mls or 2 tablespoons.

Serves 2

1 head of Broccoli
60 mls Olive Oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 large mild red chilli sliced
Thinly sliced lemon skin on

Special Equipment
Ridged Griddle Pan

Seperate the broccoli into florets, blanch in salted rolling boling water for 2 minutes, no more. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking immediately. Dry the broccoli on kitchen paper and ensure all the water has gone. This is important for the cargrilling. Gently rub half the olive oil accross all of the florets. Heat a griddle pan till smoking hot and griddle the broccoli all over till it has a nice char grilled appearance. Whilst this is going on, heat the remainder of the olive oil on a medium heat and cook chilli and garlic till nutty brown, ensuring, obviously, to not let it burn. When both the broccoli and chilli/garlic are done, toss together, season and add the thin lemon slices. I chargrill my lemons a bit too. Ottolenghi adds some flaked almonds too..I don't.

From his book...Ottolenghi The Cookbook.

About this Blog

About this Blog
Ok, so I’m 44, I love my food and I’m a very keen amateur cook. I’ve been on every diet I can think of...the F Plan, Weightwatchers, Atkins, low GI, Dukan and a host of others....the result? I’m gradually gaining about a stone in weight every 3 or 4 years. My base weight has risen from about 13 stones in 1992, to 14 stones in 1996, to 15 stones in 2000, 16 stones in 2004 and now 17 stones since 2008. These are the base weights around which my fad diets have operated...losing a stone, gaining 2, losing 2, gaining 1. This is a typical yoyo diet cycle.

So this blog is about the antithesis of that and is the anti-diet diet. But I still would like to be healthier, lose weight and eat tasty food. A tall order.
Most of these fad diets didn’t work for me because of the starve/binge cycle...I felt so deprived on most of them that when I ever fell off the wagon, I binged twice as much as I did before I started. I always felt hungry. I was always obsessing with the things I couldn’t have on the diet. I was never quite full. All the ‘free’ foods were tasteless and boring.
Recently I’ve been cooking quite a lot more, experimenting with techniques and recipes, learning about ingredients and have come to the realisation that whilst I don’t want to go on a diet in the typical sense, I want to make a life-style change that for me, as a food lover, is sustainable for the rest of my life. I'm doing this blog to see if I can actually lose weight  without going on a diet. There is only 1 hard and fast rule to this  – No food or beverage items are banned.
In this blog, I’m going to track my progress. List what’s working and what’s not. Inevitably it will also be about nice food I've cooked or eaten, rstaurants I've been to, times when I've ignored being healthy and what tasted great

Here goes....