Hairy Dieters Go Veggie

I’ve FINALLY gotten around to this one, the latest in the Hairy Bikers’ series of glorious low-calorie recipe books πŸ™‚ (the recipes are low-cal, not the books XD)

As the title suggests, there’s not a lick of meat anywhere in this particular volume — it’s all veggie, all the way. This helps keep the calories down a fair ol’ way, and is a good impetus for getting more creative with cooking one’s veg.

As per usual for Hairy Bikers books, the recipes are detailed and easy to follow, with preparation/cooking times and calorie counts for each dish. The book is as much a feast for the eyes as a feast for the stomach!

Given the all-veggie nature of the recipes, this particular book has slightly more recipes than usual that hit my ‘nope’ factor, through containing aubergines, courgettes, parsnips and other things that I really don’t like. This is a reflection of my personal tastes rather than a flaw in the book itself — there’s still plenty of good stuff there! For example, avocado toast (that millennial classic, though I’m not sure whetherΒ  I’mΒ  actually a millennial), an avocado-based chilli chocolate mousse and caponata pasta. This last one contains capers and courgettes going by the ingredients list, but I’m working out ways to omit them and keep the dish tasting good.

One particularly interesting section is the soups — especially the vegetarian miso soup (miso soup usually uses dashi stock, which contains tuna in the form of bonito flakes). I’m a sucker for good miso soup, so this is a recipe I’m particularly looking forward to. The ingredients list mentions ‘Japanese greens’, not further specified, so I’m not entirely certain what to use there, but I suppose that if all else fails, spinach or pak choi should work reasonably well.

There are quite a few tofu recipes as well, such as a ‘TLT’ (tofu, lettuce and tomato sandwich) with smoked tofu, as well as an ingenious tofu satay. I’m pretty interested in these, though I’m a tad wary owing to the fact that tofu is soy-based, and soy products don’t always agree with me. It shouldn’t be too much of a problem if I do all the preparation correctly, though — sufficiently well-processed soy tends to be ok πŸ™‚

All in all, the most recent Hairy Dieters book lives up to the standard set by its predecessors and is well worth a look!

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The Hairy Bikers’ 12 Days of Christmas (published 2010)

A very seasonally appropriate book review this week!

The Hairy Bikers’ 12 Days of Christmas is a glorious cornucopia of festive recipes suitable for any mid-winter feast or celebration, lavishly illustrated with full-colour photographs of every dish, which are sure to get the digestive juices flowing πŸ˜€

The book follows a rough timeline from the run-up to Christmas Eve through to Twelfth Night. It starts off with chapters on ‘Getting ahead’ (things such as gravlax, Christmas pudding and sorbet, which can be started a few days in advance), ‘Edible gifts’ (chutneys, fudge, infused alcohol and so on) and ‘Festive feasts’, which starts on page 42 — a nice little coincidence forΒ Hitchhiker’s Guide fans — and covers delightful things one can do with soups, duck, venison and so on. My two favourite recipes from this section are the glorious honey-glazed gammon and the Christmas pudding fondants (Christmas-pud-type desserts with a melty chocolate centre).

Next is ‘Christmas baking’ — fruity breads, stollen, mince pies and a beautiful Yule log, among other things — then come the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day chapters. The former has recipes such as Coarse Country Terrine (excellent made the day before), spatchcocked duck (one I’ve made a note of — I’m quite fond of roast duck) and special festive booze to help fuel the anticipation for the next day. The Christmas Day chapter starts with a recommended procedure/critical path for preparing Christmas dinner (starting with day-before prep), assuming a 6kg turkey, all the trimmings and a traditional Christmas pud to follow. This timeline is readily adaptable, so it can be used as a good guide whatever you’re making. As well as various traditional roasts, this section also contains recipes such as Jerusalem artichoke soup (with bacon and parsley croutons, though these can be omitted and a vegetarian stock used), potted smoked mackerel pate, goat cheese salad, various trimmings and sides (chipolatas and dates wrapped in bacon — yum!) and a few desserts as well.

Next is Boxing Day, with various ideas for using up leftovers, and light meals for after the previous day’s overindulgence. One thing I especially like the look of from this section is the goose risotto, which could easily be tweaked to use any sort of poultry. Then come sections on ‘Breakfasts and brunches’ and ‘Nibbles and telly snacks’, with lots of smaller, lighter meals to keep you going through the festive period.

Next is New Year’s Eve, with a venison roast plus various curries and special booze, and New Year’s Day. Possibly my favourite recipe from this section is the chicken liver parfait topped with cranberry butter. I love how it looks, and have enjoyed similar things bought from the supermarket, but sadly I never seem to have the time to try making it 😦 Other than that, the NYD chapter has lots of hearty casseroles to keep you warm.

Finally, there’s the Twelfth Night section, which has some creative little roasts, a fish pie and salmon coulibiac to round out the festive season in style and deliciousness.

After that, there’s just a list of recipes by meal type, then the index.

I can definitely recommend this book as a guide for festive kitchen wizardry this Christmas (or any other!) — and it can be dipped into for special occasions at other times of year as well!

Bon appetit!

Hairy Dieters: Fast Food

No, that’s not a contradiction! The ‘fast’ in the title refers to the speediness of the recipes — done right, they should be make-able in half an hour or less.

This is certainly borne out by my experience with the brunch muffin recipe I tried for supper today — 20 minutes start to finish, even with my parallel-processing difficulties slowing things down πŸ˜€

This bodes very well indeed for future suppers, because the volume of work I’ve been getting recently has been more in line with what I’d expect to get during November and December — doesn’t leave a lot of time for cooking…

I’m particularly looking forward to trying out the soup recipes — especially the spicy sweetcorn soup with bacon garnish (I can probably use some fierce garlic pickle in place of chipotle paste) and the nicely colourful pea-and-ham fritters with mustard sauce — they look delicious!

There are a few recipes — mostly sauces and so on — which look interesting but which are inaccessible to me because I don’t have a pressure cooker (no room, and they scare me a bit even though I know modern ones have all sorts of safety features and very rarely explode when used properly). 😦 I’ll see if I can think of some workarounds though πŸ™‚

All in all, another triumph from Si King and Dave Myers!

The Hairy Dieters: Good Eating

Just started working my way through this book πŸ™‚

It’s as appetisingly illustrated as their other recipe books, with a photograph for every recipe — no complaints there!

Same sort of division of recipes as the preceding diet books — breakfast, favourites, suppers, treats, desserts — with the same sort of chatty, informal tone to the instructions for each recipe, which nevertheless gets the necessary information across clearly and concisely. Also present and correct are calorie counts per portion of each dish, estimates for prep time and cooking time, and informative little introductory paragraphs for each recipe giving backstory, tips or comments as appropriate, which is a nice little addition.

In re: the recipes, I’ll be focussing a little more on the supper-type stuff, given that the breakfast section doesn’t have much that matches to my personal tastes (with the exception of the smoked haddock omelette — which, with a little tweaking, works pretty well as a scrambled egg recipe. This is good, because I’m rubbish at omelettes.) Therefore, among the other delicious things I have to look forward to are low-cal pasta puttanesca, various pizzas, a couple of meatball recipes, fancy low-cal fish fingers, an interesting little pasta recipe which calls itself ‘smashed-up chicken’ (there are a lot of really good-looking pasta recipes in this book! A major plus point ^_^) and ginger biscuits. Yum yum!

Overall, just as well worth reading as the other Hairy Dieters books πŸ˜€

Keeping it simple

After a short break, I’m back on the Hairy Dieters routine. I’ve started working from the second Hairy Dieters book, Eat For Life. I intend to do a full review of the book when I’ve finished working through it, rather than when I’m starting out — it seems more sensible, given that I’ll have more practical experience with the recipes therein.

There are three recipes — chicken and vegetable pot-pies, all-in-one spicy pork and rice, beef goulash — which I passed over on my initial recipe-marking run through the book, but which on second reading looked appetising enough that I plan to give them a go. I’m sure they’ll be delicious!

I’ve had the poached egg with smoked salmon recipe so far. The main difference between the egg poaching technique given in the previous HD book and this one is that this book recommends putting the unbroken egg in the boiling water in the poaching pan for precisely 20 seconds before turning the water down to a gentle simmer and breaking the egg in then. It definitely works — the eggs hold together much better with this method. It’s certainly something to remember!

Bolognese

I’m afraid I’m completely at a loss as regards good bolognese puns… the low-cal bolognese sauce I made yesterday was brilliant, though! Another triumph for the Hairy Dieters πŸ™‚ I’m almost to the end of ‘Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight’, and I can definitely say that it’s been great πŸ˜€ For budgetary reasons, next week’s recipe won’t be from that book, but it’ll still be good — I’ll be adapting the tartiflette recipe on the BBC site to make croziflette (which is basically the same but with pasta instead of potatoes). I’m really looking forward to it because it means I have an iron-clad excuse to raid the fancy cheese section at my local Sainsburys! πŸ˜€

Speaking of Hairy Dieters, I recently received my copy of their last diet recipe book, Fast Food, which contains recipes that can be prepared in half an hour or less. It’s fascinating stuff and I look forward to trying bits of it out ^^

Another good book that I’ve been reading is Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness, the behind-the-scenes art-book-type-thing for Guillermo del Toro’s masterful Gothic romance piece (it’s *not* a horror film, whatever the marketing tried to say — it’s a Gothic romance with horror in it). I loved the visuals of the movie, with the symbolic use of colour and the detailed sets and the magnificent desolation of Allerdale Hall. Reading AoD, I found out many things that I’d missed on first viewing the movie, such as the meanings behind Edith’s various costumes and just how deeply embedded in the design the moth/butterfly visual symbolism is. The book also contains abridged versions of the biographies which del Toro provided for the four main characters (Edith, Alan and the Sharpe siblings) which provided interesting new angles from which to view them. I was also able to really appreciate the time and skill and passion which went into building the world of the story — quite, quite fascinating!

The Hairy Dieters: How To Love Food and Lose Weight

I realise that there is a certain irony in my choice of recipe book to write about this close to Christmas, but that’s how things have turned out ^^

I was recently alerted to the fact that it was medically necessary for me to lose a bit of weight; being a fan of the Hairy Bikers, and having their diet recipe books in my possession, I took the most obvious course of action.

Continue reading

The Hairy Bikers’ Meat Feasts, by Si King and Dave Myers (published August 2015)

This book is a marvel! I know that I tend to say that a lot when it comes to Si and Dave’s culinary publications, but it is always a justified assessment, especially here. Lavishly illustrated with delicious-looking photographs, as always, this book will get your digestive juices flowing before you even enter the kitchen!

As the title suggests, this is the perfect book for unapologetic carnivores like me. There are starters, salads, roasts (of course!), soups, many glorious ways to encase meat in pastry, curries… The possibilities are endless! I particularly liked the inclusion of a whole section on the uses of offal (liver, kidneys, pigs’ trotters, heart, tongue, bone marrow, and sweetbreads – the thymus glands of a calf or lamb). These parts of an animal tend to be overlooked, possibly out of a knee-jerk ‘Ew! Internal organs!’ response, or a cultural association of offal-eating with poverty/low social status[1]. This is an unjustified slight on parts of an animal that are flavoursome and full of nutrients; liver’n’onions and steak’n’kidney pie are classics for a reason!

There’s also a drool-worthy chapter on uses for leftovers – I really liked the look of the ‘croquetas’ recipe (good for using up leftover pork or ham), and the inclusion of a method for oven-baked pork scratchings made me smile. I have a weakness for these crunchy, tasty little morsels.

At the back of the book is a section on side dishes, pickles, and sauces to go with various different meat dishes. There are tips on stock and consommΓ©, guacamole, herb jellies to use as condiments or extra bursts of flavour in a sauce, coleslaw, the many wonderful things that can be done with the humble potato… yum! This section should give you plenty of ideas for making your meat dishes that bit more special.

The final chapter contains some sage (ahaha…) information and advice from a farmer who rears animals for meat. Topic include the best places to buy meat, methods of curing, the differences between types of meat (especially differences caused by the age of the animal and how it was reared – this has very important effects on the flavour), what to look for when buying, and proper storage once you’ve brought your meat home. There are also annotated diagrams showing which parts of a cow, lamb, and pig different cuts come from, as well as which cuts work best in which dishes (as a general rule of thumb, the tougher the meat, the better it is for slow-cooked stews – this is not a guarantee, though, so always ask an experienced butcher for advice).

The only real gripe I have is the inclusion of salt in recipes where it is simply not necessary; this is a fairly minor point, as I can simply omit the salt without adversely affecting the final product.

All in all, I can safely say that this book is well worth investing in, especially if you make meat dishes on a regular basis.

[1] This was certainly the case in medieval times – this is where the expression ‘to eat humble pie’ comes from. ‘Umble’ pie was made with offal, so if someone of high status had to eat this, rather than the cuts enjoyed by their erstwhile peers, then they had taken a serious social tumble and been ‘knocked off their perch’, so to speak.

The Hairy Bikers’ Asian Adventure by Si King and Dave Myers (published in 2014)

I was really happy to be able to catch this series on its initial broadcast last year; I’ve liked sushi for a while now (my parents tell me that my home-made stuff is pretty good) and I wanted to learn more about the variety of food that comes under the heading of ‘Asian cuisine’. That made the purchase of this glorious recipe book an absolute no-brainer!

The book is divided up in more-or-less the same way as the series; after an introductory section, the recipes are organised by country of origin (following the broadcast order of the episodes): Hong Kong, Bangkok and Central Thailand, North and South Thailand, Tokyo, Kyoto and Rural Japan, South Korea. After these sections, which are by and large savoury/main dishes, there is a section titled ‘Puddings and Cakes’; these sweet dishes did not really appear in the programme, but they were gathered and composed to complement the other recipes. Some of these sweets are fairly uncontroversial (such as the ginger cookies or the poached plums), but some — like the fried ice cream with butterscotch sauce (I kid you not!) — are surprising, to say the least. After this section, you find a detailed A-Z list of ingredients used in the book that might not be immediately familiar to Western tastes, as well as a comprehensive list of the best suppliers of Asian food and ingredients in the UK.

As with all Hairy Bikers recipe books, Asian Adventure is lavishly illustrated. Most recipes are accompanied by a colour photograph of the finished dish; where this is not the case, there is usually a picture of the Bikers preparing ingredients or getting into the local culture and enjoying themselves immensely. Between recipes and sections, there are stills from the series, pictures of food being prepared, hunger-inducing shots of multiple dishes laid out as for a buffet… Wow. This book is a work of art.

Constraints of time and budget mean that I have not had a great deal of time to experiment with recipes. Furthermore, quite a few of the Thai and Korean recipes have a sufficiently powerful spice component that I would have to think carefully about how to modify them. However, I have successfully made tonkatsu pork (the link leads to the recipe on the BBC Food website). It turned out very well! I used a small bottle of shōchΕ« (the acquisition of which inspired me to try this recipe) instead of sake in the tonkatsu sauce, and substituted sherry for mirin, the latter ingredient being difficult to find. The sauce was very flavoursome. Once I’d breadcrumbed the pork loin steaks, I baked them at 180C for 25 minutes, rather than frying them according to the recipe — I was reluctant to add more grease to the dish than was absolutely necessary. The steaks and sauce were served with cucumber and spring onions, and went down a treat! Next time I work from this book, I’d like to try doing okonomiyaki, the authentic chashu pork ramen (in the show, the Bikers did this one at the base of Mt Fuji itself!) or one of the katsu burger recipes — beef or prawn, it doesn’t matter which. It all looks so good!

I only have a couple of real gripes:

  1. A lot of the recipes contain instructions to add salt where salt is not strictly necessary. These recipes can be made without the excess salt at all, without adversely affecting the outcome in any way. There are only one or two recipes in the whole book where salt is, strictly speaking, necessary; in these cases, salt is used to remove excess moisture from certain types of leaf used in the recipe, and is not added to the dish itself in any great quantity.
  2. Quite a few of the recipes call for deep-frying; apart possibly from the fried ice cream recipe (I am really not joking about that!), it should be possible to use shallow-frying, oven-baking or steaming instead (with a little ingenuity).
  3. A fairly minor personal thing — the variety and quantity of recipes in the book mean that the section on sushi is a bit thin. This is strictly a personal thing, though, because I’ve been a bit spoiled on the sushi recipe front by Sushi for Dummies — detailed and fascinating!

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Asian cuisine. It covers all the bases and then some!