Stroggin’ on and off

Ehehehe…

Pork stroganoff this week — interesting recipe, slightly mixed results (though not, I hasten to add, through any fault of the recipe)…

I used a pack of diced pork leg from Sainsburys, since it was incredibly lean and would save time at the preparation stage. It browned and cooked beautifully, and tasted good, but it came out a bit dry — possibly because of the aforementioned leanness, possibly because of overcooking. Overdone is better than underdone, though, where pork is concerned.

I couldn’t get reduced-fat crème fraiche, only the ordinary stuff (which nullified the diet-ness of the recipe rather), and I didn’t reduce the mixture enough before adding the cream, so the sauce component of the meal turned out rather runnier than it probably should have done. Again, though, the fault was with me rather than the recipe.

Next time I do this recipe, I might use lean pork mince instead of the diced pork leg — similarly small amounts of prep needed and less likely to turn out dry.

I still have a fair bit of the crème fraiche left, but given that, when I was getting the ingredients last Friday, there were a few boxes of mixed-weight eggs on yellow label, the deli counter had a good deal on prosciutto crudo and 500g bags of whole-wheat fusilli are really cheap…CARBONARA AHOY!!!!!!!!!! 😀

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A rather chilly turkey

Except not really — a lovely, warm, quick-to-make turkey chilli was this week’s recipe ^^

I had a half-pack of turkey sausages (about 225g) in my freezer from when I made Turkish turkey flatbreads a couple of weeks ago, so I used those — turkey mince being so expensive and only available in packages nearly twice as big as what I needed (this recipe called for 300g), I just thought “[bleep] that for a game of soldiers” and went for the option that would save me more money. I made up the missing 75g with extra veg — lots of nutrients and goodness while keeping the calorie count low 🙂

Apart from the above-mentioned modification, I stuck pretty much exactly to the recipe as given in the book, and it turned out extremely well ^^ This particular chilli thing being a one-pot dish meant that I could cook things pretty hard while not worrying about the turkey losing too much moisture and becoming dry and unpleasant. The chipotle paste packed a pretty powerful punch straight out of the jar, but it mellowed out rather nicely in the cooking — and going by the portion I had for supper this evening, spending a night in the fridge tempered the heat further. Bit funny, that, because the heat from the green chillies I added to last week’s pea, mint and ham soup only seemed to increase with storage. This merits further investigation…

I still have most of the jar of chipotle paste left, but it’s in the fridge, so it’ll keep, and it should tart up a tomato soup rather nicely!

Easy peas-y

Ok, that one was bad, sorry… *ducks to avoid shower of rotten veg*

Pea, mint and ham soup this week, Hairy Dieters style, and hoo boy did it ever turn out well!

I followed the recipe pretty closely — I made the veggie stock up to double the strength mentioned in the recipe, because I had two veggie stock cubes that needed using up, a saucepan that wasn’t quite big enough to hold a full litre of stock, and a couple of empty jars that I was intending to rinse out, adding the rinsings to the soup. I also threw in a few chunks of frozen spinach from the bag I have on standby in the freezer (to dial up the nutritional content while not dinging the calorie count) and sliced in a couple of green chillies that had been sitting in the freezer for months, waiting for me to remember to use them. Additionally, I ignored the ‘blitz soup with a stick blender until smooth’ step, for a few reasons — I have a weird thing with texture processing that means I find liquidised soup nauseating (unless it’s from a tin, for some reason), my stick blender is a bit ropey and difficult to clean, and I feel that un-liquidised soup has more visual appeal.

The ham I used for the honey-mustard-ham garnish (well, maple-syrup-mustard, because that was what I had) was some of the really decent Wiltshire ham from the Sainsbury’s deli counter, so it was very very tasty ^^ I didn’t cook it for long enough to go crispy, because the maple-mustard mixture was creating a rather thick burned-looking layer of…stuff…on the bottom of my frying pan, so I took it off the heat early and did some very judicious scraping.

Overall, I can most definitely call this recipe a resounding success! A full, rich flavour, lovely and filling, and the green chillies let things a very pleasant warm kick 😀 This one’s definitely going on the rota! I might use red chillies next time, for the colour contrast…

Fabulous flatbreads

Ohhh yes 😀 Turkish-style turkey flatbreads were this week’s special, and lor’, they were fun ^^

The recipe called for pitta breads — shop-bought would have worked fine, but there’s a recipe for from-scratch pittas in the ‘basics’ section at the back of Hairy Dieters Make It Easy, so I made that instead ^^ I used half-and-half strong white flour and chickpea flour, since I have a bag of the stuff that needs using up, and it worked pretty darn well! The pittas came out a bit smaller and firmer textured than I was expecting, though whether that’s down to my use of chickpea flour or lack sufficient warmth/rising time/kneading, I know not. It doesn’t really matter, though — they were perfectly edible and actually tasted pretty good! The dough from this recipe is also used in a recipe for ‘savoury tartlets’ later in the book, and I suspect it could also work as a quick pizza base. Oooh, the possibilities…

The ‘turkey’ bit of ‘turkey flatbreads’ comes from turkey mince modged up with various herbs and spices, tomato puree, minced garlic and a finely chopped onion and spread on top of two to four pittas before being baked in a very hot oven until lightly charred on top and cooked all the way through. There was a slight wrinkle with this, in that I could only find turkey mince in 500g and 750g packs, which were really really expensive — it wouldn’t have made economic sense to pay nearly five quid for something that was two or three times bigger than what I actually needed. I managed to find a workaround, though, by getting a 454g pack of turkey sausages (which were on special offer for less than £3), putting half the sausages in the freezer and slicing the other half into small rounds before mixing them up with the other topping ingredients. I had to use my hands after an initial bit of stirring to get things to start coming together, but that didn’t matter because once everything was well-mixed I had something pretty close to the ‘thick paste’ state specified in the recipe.

I only made a couple of other changes to the book’s procedure. One was the omission of pine nuts (sprinkled on top of the flatbreads before baking); the recipe only called for 10g, and given that a 100g bag of pine nuts costs about £4, it was another case of not making economic sense to pay that much for something I only needed a small quantity of. I don’t think the omission of the pine nuts altered the recipe especially drastically, though, so I’m not overly worried.

The other alteration to the printed procedure was simply grilling the flatbreads rather than doing them in the oven. There was an economic motive behind this as well — the grill would use a lot less electricity and generally be more efficient — but I also wanted to avoid actually carbonising the pitta breads, which had browned a bit more than I’d expected when baking them last Friday (my oven tends to run a bit hot). It turned out well — the meat was cooked and had a good texture, and the pittas didn’t burn. Win-win!

The proof of the flatbread is in the eating, and these passed the test with flying colours! The mix of spices was just right to give a pleasant, flavourful warmth without the usual runny-nose-and-burning-tongue response to most highly spiced foods. The textures of the meat and pitta components gelled very well, too. All in all, I’d call this recipe a success — especially as the general procedure for the meat topping would work equally well for turkey burgers (or pork, beef, chicken or lamb, for that matter). Versatile indeed ^^

Oooh, I’m all of a fritter!

Salmon and sweetcorn fritters this week!

I was a bit worried that they’d fall apart like my attempt at prawn foo yung did (I still ate it, of course, but next time I’ll fry or scramble the egg and have the prawns and veg on the side…), but they turned out absolutely perfectly 😀

I followed the recipe in the book pretty much exactly, with one exception — the ingredients list mentioned plain flour, but I used gram flour (derived from chickpeas) instead since I’ve had a nearly-full bag of it sitting in my cupboard for ages, waiting to be used. It worked brilliantly! 😀

I decided to skip the dipping sauce bit of the recipe — soy sauce, a bit of chilli sauce and the juice of one lime — and just had a bit of soy sauce on half of last night’s portion, with a bit of sweet chilli sauce on the other half. The portion I put in the fridge for tonight’s supper tasted just as good as last night’s fritters — I didn’t even need to reheat anything — and went very well with a small squeeze of eggless sriracha mayo. 🙂

Coronation chicken salad is on the menu for tomorrow — since I don’t have any leftover chicken, I bought a couple of chicken thighs which I’m going to grill thoroughly before adding them to the salad. Should be good 😀 The only other changes I’m making to that recipe are the omission of the mustard cress and the almonds (not super necessary) and the use of iceberg lettuce instead of little gem lettuce, because I prefer iceberg and it works just as well ^^

Yum yum 😀

Hairy Dieters Make It Easy

Welp, the sixth book in the Hairy Dieters series has arrived (well, it was released some time ago, but I’ve only just gotten around to making a start on it…) and it is pretty darn good!

Book review bit: Not much I can say about this book that I haven’t already said about previous entries in this series — the recipes are clearly written and easy to follow, with calorie counts per portion, number of servings and approximate cooking time at the top of each one. Most recipes also have colourful and incredibly appetising photographs of the finished product next to each one. The book is split into themed sections — 15-minute recipes, low/no-cooking assembly jobs, 6-ingredient recipes, guilt-free desserts and so on, which makes it easy to pick out recipes and plan ahead for meals for a week or so. In general, definitely well up to the high standard set by the previous Hairy Dieters books!

Recipe wurbles: I started my run through this book with almost the first recipe in the first section, ‘quick Mexican eggs’. It’s basically a super-fast version of huevos rancheros — black beans simmered in a bit of water with tomato puree, herbs, garlic and spices (because ‘proper’ refried beans take ages), a fried egg and a tortilla per portion, plus a ‘salsa’ made of diced avocado stirred up with lime juice.

A note at the end of the recipe suggested stirring through a bag of fresh baby leaf spinach — I didn’t have such a thing in my stores, so I dipped into a bag of frozen spinach that’s been sitting in my freezer for a while and added a few chunks of that. This tweak is a pretty good idea, actually — spinach has a good amount of fibre and iron, so you can jack up the proportions of those nutrients without affecting the calorie count much. I also diced and threw in a red chilli that had been randomly sitting in my freezer for ages, so as to add a bit of an extra kick — and hoo boy, did it deliver!

The salsa was a bit more awkward, because I somehow managed to buy the one avocado that was still kind of under-ripe even after two days in my fridge. This made getting the flesh out of the skin sort of interesting, but I managed it ^^ And it did make dicing it a bit easier 🙂 I stirred it up with the juice (and zest — waste nothing!) of a lime, and that also helped a bit. I’ll definitely have to be a bit more careful with my avocados next time I make a recipe like this, though.

Oddly enough, the eggs went almost perfectly — I’ve generally struggled with doing fried eggs that didn’t stick to the pan in the past, but here I somehow, serendipitously, managed to consistently get sunny-side up eggs with the white all cooked, the yolk delightfully runny, minimal burnt crunchy bits and absolutely no sticking! I’m rather pleased with that — though it remains to be seen how this new-found knack transfers to omelettes and other such things (which I’m even worse at, generally, than fried eggs), especially as tomorrow’s recipe (from the same section of the book) is prawn foo yung. The lady at my local Asian food shop was a bit surprised when I mentioned the low-calorie prawn foo yung recipe, because it’s generally a very rich dish. The low calorie count on this version seems to come from using fewer eggs, minimal oil and lots of veggies. I’ll be using frozen pre-cooked-and-peeled prawns (Sainsbury’s finest basic ones), rather than the raw ones mentioned in the ingredients list, so I should hypothetically be able to skip the step of finishing the dish under a very hot grill to get the prawns properly cooked — I’ll see how things turn out ^^

All in all, a very auspicious start!

A provincial bit of chicken

Ok, I know ‘Provençal’ doesn’t really mean ‘provincial’, but sometimes you have to torture word meanings a bit for the sake of a pun…

In any case, this week’s dish was chicken Provençal, made in my slow cooker — I was given a couple of sachets of this stuff a few weeks ago, and now seemed as goos a time as any to try it out.

I fiddled the ingredient ratios a bit, for reasons of cost and the amount of space in my slow cooker. I ended up with about 600g of chicken thighs (5 thighs in total), where the instructions implied 8 thighs/breasts per sachet. I used 1 red bell pepper and 1 yellow bell pepper, as well as two 400g tins of chopped tomatoes in tomato juice (with added basil), the rinsings of those tins (as well as the rinsings of a couple of chutney jars that I’d been storing at the back of my fridge for just such an occasion), as well as some chopped garlic sausage. I was able to get a whole 754g garlic sausage at Sainsbury’s deli counter last Friday because it was reduced to 10p per 100g, and this seemed like a pretty good way to use up the leftovers. The addition of the sausage may or may not have made the final dish something akin to a poule au pot or pot-au-feu, but I can’t be certain because Google and Wikipedia are surprisingly unhelpful on this point…

In any case, the casserole-Provençal-stew-thingy turned out very tasty and filling, although the seasoning sachets did contain a bit too much salt for my taste. That’s a relatively minor gripe, though — I got a tasty meal, three portions to store away in the freezer for later consumption, some useful experience with ingredient combinations and a very nice way to help my digestion transition from a rich, heavy winter diet to the lighter fare I’ll be starting on next week, when I begin my run-through of the latest Hairy Dieters book, Hairy Dieters Make It Easy. Yum yum!

Still slammed

The flow of work has not let up this week! I’m not really complaining — it’s all money in the bank — but the intensity of this month has been a bit of a shock to the system given that this is the busiest invoice period I’ve had in over a year!

This same intense workflow has also made creative food-wrestling a bit harder, so I just did a bit of a mixed grill this week, to keep the cold out — beefburgers, sausages with a maple-mustard glaze, black pudding, potato croquettes and baked beans, all garnished with a squeeze of vegan sriracha mayo (I picked up a bottle in my local Asian food shop a couple of weeks ago — it’s really good!). Very yummy and filling! ^^

Another solid week

Still a pretty heavy workflow this week, although not quite as ferocious as last week, thank goodness 🙂

Used my last chunk of super-reduced-price sausagemeat to make fusilli alla burina (tomato, pea + sausage sauce) — a tasty, reliable standby!

I’m kind of putting my novella project on the back burner for the time being, owing to the continued lack of reply from my initial choice of self-publishing company and the aforementioned heavy workflow taking up much of my time. I have at least found and made a note of an autism-friendly publisher that seems to accept unagented submissions, which is good 😀 I thought briefly about approaching the publishing company that supplies the majority of my work, but I decided against it on the grounds of possible conflict of interest, as well as my novella not being anywhere near the romance genre (it’s more of a low-fantasy/urban fantasy sort of thing).

It’s absurdly cold here at the moment XD The winter’s overall been rather milder than last year’s Beast from the East, so that’s something 🙂

Not too much else to report, really…