Monday, April 28, 2014

Nutrition: Fact sheet- Fats

This is a nutrition article I wrote for Total Guide to Bath:
Nutrition Article April
Factsheet- Fats
I think many people know that there are “good fats” and “bad fats”- but apart from knowing that a drizzle of olive oil on your salad is good for you, but extra cheese and salami on your pizza is perhaps not so good- many do not know which fats we should be avoiding, which are recommended, and which fats are found in different foods.

It is also very important to know that you shouldn’t ever have a diet with no fat in it- fat plays very important functions within the body, such as helping to insulate the body from the cold, needed for absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and is used within the body to create essential hormones.

Fats are found in both animal and plant sources, for example:

Animal Origin: Butter, Lard, Meat, Dairy Products, Fish, Eggs
Plant Origin: Seeds, Nuts, Olives, Avocado, Coconut, soya.

Generally speaking (although coconut is an odd exception to this rule), fats from animal origin are made up of “saturated fats”- which are essentially the “bad fats” that you will want to be avoiding, or reducing how much you consume of, as these are the fats that have a bad effect on your cholesterol levels.

Fats from plant sources are usually made from “monounsaturated fats”- which have been proven to have a positive effect on cholesterol levels and your overall circulation and heart health.

Oily fish provides a good source polyunsaturated fats, many of you may know as “omega 3” and “omega 6” which you often see advertised on food packaging. It is theorised that it the high consumption of oily fish, and the high levels of olive oil consumption, that accounts for the healthiness of the Mediterranean population. This is most likely why the NHS recommends that the British public should be consuming at least one portion of oily fish a week.

Here are some tips on keeping your saturated fat levels low, and your “healthy fat” levels high!
· Start cooking with olive oil instead of with butter.
· Switch from semi-skimmed or whole milk to skimmed.
· Reduce consumption of high fat meats, such as pork, duck, or lamb- and aim to consume leaner meats, such as chicken, turkey, beef or game.
· Use lean cooking methods- such as baking, grilling, or broiling- rather than higher fat methods such as frying or roasting.
· Choose “low fat” or “non-fat” versions of your usual foods (e.g. yoghurt, ice cream, ready meals).
· Use herbs, spices  and lemon juice to increase the flavour of dishes without having to add fat to it to make it taste nice!
· Avoid (or reduce consumption of) high fat dairy products, such as cream (or cream cakes!) or cheese. Good low fat cheeses include cottage cheese and feta.

And here are some healthy meal suggestions to help you to keep your healthy fat consumption high!

Fruit smoothie- made with your favourite fruits, and a handful of linseeds.
Smoked salmon and tomato egg white omelette
“Low Fat Fry-up” Grilled bacon, sausages, tomato and mushrooms, with 1 poached egg and seeded toast.

Turkey Avocado salad wraps (grilled turkey breast, with balsamic dressing, avocado and lettuce in tortillas)
Butternut squash and puoy lentil salad (mix steamed butternut squash with cooked puoy lentils, and a homemade pesto dressing- with pine nuts, olive oil and basil)
Tuna salad nicoise (made with lightly cooked fresh tuna steaks)

Beef and butterbean stew, with steamed new potatoes (made with a lean stewing beef)
Turkey and asparagus stir fry, served on steamed basmati rice
Seared mackerel fillets, served on seeded toast with a lightly dressed horseradish coleslaw.

To keep your healthy fats high, snack on nuts and seeds whenever you can!

So don’t be scared to improve your diet, and improve your heart health, by not shying away from fats- now that you know the good, from the bad, from the ugly!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Recipe: Smoky Chipotle Beef

The "Chipotle" is a smoked chilli- actually the dried smoked form of the jalapeƱo! You can get it in many forms these days, in fact I think even Tabasco does a "chipotle" flavoured Tabasco sauce- but I have used Discovery chipotle paste in this recipe. It gives a very spicy, smoky, sweet flavour to whatever you add it to. If you are a chilli wimp, like me, 25g is just enough heat to handle- but if you enjoy your spicy food (like my boyfriend), feel free to add a chopped red chilli at stage one of the recipe, and 40g of the chipotle paste. That's the thing about spiciness- just like salt and pepper it always needs to be done "to taste".

Smoky Chipotle Beef (serves 2)

25g butter
1 white onion, diced
270g diced stewing beef
1 tbsp chopped rosemary
¼ tsp celery salt
1 tin chopped tomatoes
500ml beef stock
2 tbsp instant chocolate drinking powder
25g chipotle paste
1 tsp cornflour, mixed with a little water
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste

1. Fry the onion, beef, rosemary and celery salt in the butter in a casserole pot, for 12 minutes, stirring often. Add all other ingredients (except cornflour), and cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 1 hour and a half.
2. Add cornflour to the casserole, increase the heat, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until sauce has thickened well. Season to taste and serve, with mashed potatoes if desired. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Recipe: Pea and Ham Risotto

People think that risotto is all posh and you need to spend a fortune in order to make a nice one: Wrong! People think that you have to be slaving over a hot stove for ages, adding stock ladlefuls at a time: Wrong! Risottos are really the perfect midweek meal as they require little preparation, and take less than 30 minutes to make from start to finish. I don't add the stock gradually, I add it in two parts.  You do have to stir risottos a fair amount, but only for 15 minutes really, which Isn't too time consuming. I have used "ham trim" for this, which you can get really cheaply from supermarkets, sometimes already packaged, sometimes from the meat counter.

Pea and Ham Risotto (serves 2 generously)

30g butter
2 large white onions
½ tsp celery salt
2 tsp mixed herbs
250g Arborio rice
100ml white wine
900ml chicken stock
180g finely diced ham
290g frozen peas
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Fry the onions, celery salt and mixed herbs in the butter for 6 minutes. Add the rice and fry for a further minute. Add the wine, and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add half the stock, and cook on a high heat, stirring often, for 8 minutes.
2. Add the other half of the stock, and cook for a further 6 minutes. Add the frozen peas, and cook for 4 more minutes, or until the risotto has thickened and the peas are cooked. Season to taste and serve!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Recipe: Braised Red Lentils and Ham, with Smoked Paprika Potatoes

Haven't had lentils in ages, and this recipe made me realise that I really ought to be cooking with them more. They are so filling- normally me and my boyfriend tend to have seconds of dinner but both of us were stuffed!  Unusual way of using baked potatoes- thought I would try something a little different, turns out these are an absolutely fantastic side dish. If you have any, it's also nice to use ham stock in this recipe.

Braised Red Lentils and Ham, with Smoked Paprika Potatoes (serves 4)
6 medium baking potatoes, halved
150g butter
1.5 tsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper

25g butter
3 white onions, diced
6 garlic cloves, chopped
½ tsp celery salt
1 tsp mixed herbs
2 carrots, peeled and sliced thickly
250g red split lentils
270g thickly diced ham
900ml chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Parboil the baked potato halves for 12 minutes. Drain, and place potatoes on a large baking tray, flesh side up. Cut criss-cross lines into the potato.
2. Mix together the butter, smoked paprika and salt and pepper, and spoon and spread evenly onto the 12 baked potato halves. Put potatoes in the oven and bake for 35 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, fry the onions, garlic, carrots, celery salt and mixed herbs in the butter for 10 minutes. Add the lentils, ham and chicken stock, and cook on a medium high heat, stirring often, for 20 minutes.
4. Season lentils to taste, and serve with the paprika roasted potatoes!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Recipe: Carrot and Ginger Soup

Carrot and ginger is a classic combination and this soup is absolutely delicious. I like to use Very Lazy chopped ginger in this recipe, but maybe that's because I'm getting a little lazy these days!

Carrot and Ginger Soup (serves 8)
40g butter
2 white onions, diced
8 garlic cloves, chopped
¼ tsp mixed herbs
35g minced or finely grated ginger
1.9kg carrots, peeled and chopped
1.9 litre chicken stock
100ml semi skimmed milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Natural yoghurt for garnish

1. In a large saucepan, fry the onions, garlic and mixed herbs in the butter for 5 minutes. Add the carrots, ginger, stock and milk, and cook on a high heat for 35 minutes. Stirring occasionally.
2. Blend, season to taste, and serve, with a dollop of natural yoghurt on top. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Recipe: Chicken, Yoghurt and Dill Topping

This is a lovely healthy alternative to those you likes chicken mayo with their lunches. I am not a huge fan of mayonnaise- I will have a bit of garlic mayo on my chips/kebab, but other than that I usually find mayonnaise a little too rich. This is a fresh, delicious summery filling/topping, that goes lovely on a jacket potato, in a sandwich or in a wrap. You can of course use chicken breast, I've just used thighs because they are on offer at the Co-Op at the moment.

Chicken, Yoghurt and Dill Topping (serves 5 as a topping/filling)
600g skinless, boneless chicken thighs
30g butter
450g low fat Greek yoghurt
Large handful fresh dill, finely chopped
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp lemon juice
Plenty of salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Put the chicken thighs in a roasting dish, dot with a bit of butter on top of each, season with salt and pepper and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
2. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and dice. Mix together with the yoghurt, dill, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and season to taste. Chill, and serve- on top of your jacket potatoes, in your sandwiches, or with whatever you wish!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Recipe: Lancashire Hotpot

This is my entry to Rix Petroleum's recipe competition- this month's seasonal challenge was to create a delicious dish using spring lamb- so I have created a comfort food classic- Lancashire Hotpot! I asked some of my northern foodie friends from My Favourite Recipes about traditional ways of cooking it, as I was unsure. Traditionally Lancashire hotpot should always be made with chunks of lamb (not mince!) and sometimes other traditional ingredients can be kidneys, and black pudding. I have used lamb breast, which is a little fatty, but a very cheap cut, and gives great flavour to this dish. Red onions aren't really traditional but I generally prefer them to white onions in almost everything.
Lancashire Hotpot (serves 3)

2 tsp vegetable oil
625g boneless lamb breast, diced
2 red onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp mixed herbs
600ml beef stock
40ml Worcestershire sauce
3 tsp cornflour, mixed with a little water
900g potatoes, peeled and sliced very thinly
35g butter
Salt and pepper

1.       Preheat the oven or aga to 200C. Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan, and brown the lamb (in 3 batches to ensure nice colouring), remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the red onion, garlic and sugar and fry for 6 minutes.
2.       Add the stock, mixed herbs, Worcestershire sauce and reserved lamb and cook on a medium heat, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Add the cornflour and cook for 1 minute, until the sauce has thickened a little. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper, and pour into a casserole dish (that has a lid).
3.       Layer the thinly sliced potatoes over the lamb filling. Dot the butter over the top of the potatoes, season with plenty of salt and pepper, put a lid on, and bake in the oven for 1 hour and a half.
4.       Remove the lid, and place hotpot under a grill for about 6 minutes, or until potatoes on top are golden and crispy. Serve, with buttered seasonal vegetables!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Recipe: Chicken and Olives, with Harissa Mash

This is absolutely delish, a slightly Morrocan-y flavoured chicken and olive stew, with sweetly spiced mash. Harissa is a middle eastern spice paste usually made with red peppers, chilli, oil, garlic and other spices- I tend to use Sainsburys own brand version. I also used Crespo's herb and garlic marinated olives for this recipe- very tasty. Think the recipe would also be nice with mixed olives, or kalamata too possibly.

Chicken and Olives, with Harissa Mash (serves 3)

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 white onions, sliced
9 garlic cloves, roughly
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
700ml chicken stock
20ml lemon juice
260g marinated green olives (no stones)
1 tbsp ground cumin
300g leftover roast chicken (mostly dark meat if possible)
1 tsp cornflour, mixed with a little water
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste

1.4kg potatoes, peeled and diced
25g Harissa paste
2 generous tbsp butter
Splash of milk
Salt and pepper to taste.

1. Fry the onion and garlic in the vegetable oil for 7 minutes. Add the carrot, chicken stock, lemon juice, olives and cumin, and cook on a medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Add the chicken, and cook for a further 10 minutes. Add the cornflour mixture and cook for a further 1 or 2 minutes on a high heat until sauce has thickened.
3. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in salted boiling water, until soft enough mash (takes about 20-25 minutes). Drain potatoes, mash with the Harissa, butter, milk and seasoning. Serve the chicken and olive stew with a big dollop of the Harissa mash. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Recipe: White Wine Roast Chicken, with Rapeseed roasted New potatoes and Artichokes

Made this the other day and it just left me and Brendan smiling all night- honestly there's something about a roast dinner, theres just something about a recipe that you put a little extra effort in, that makes it so worth it. Yes I do make a lot of simple meals, a lot of mid-week rice-y pasta-y things that take less than 30 minutes to make, minimal effort, and taste nice. They definitely taste good,  but they don't taste AWESOME. This recipe requires a little multi-tasking, sometimes the chicken might end up a little cold by the time you've carved it and the gravy and potatoes are ready- you can either microwave it quickly, or you can just not be bothered about it and pour piping hot gravy over it to make it warm. The whole "prosecco" thing is just to make it sound posh, doubt it makes any flavour difference- feel free to use any white wine you fancy.

White wine Roast Chicken, with Rapeseed roasted new potatoes and artichokes (serves 3)

The Chicken
1 X 1.5kg Tesco British Butter Basted Chicken
1 bottle white wine (a bottle of prosecco works well if your feeling flash!)
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp Rapeseed Oil

The potatoes/artichokes
600g small new potatoes, halved
2 tins artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and halved
3 tbsp Rapeseed Oil
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
Salt, pepper and sugar

The gravy
1 tbsp Rapeseed Oil
1 large white onion, sliced
Pinch sugar
¼ tsp dried mixed herbs
*All the chicken roasting juices.
100ml strong beef stock
1 tsp cornflour, mixed with a little water
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste.

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Put the chicken in a deep roasting tray, and pour in the whole bottle of prosecco. Sprinkle the garlic over the top of the chicken, and drizzle with a little oil (this attempts to stop these garlic pieces from burning- although if some do it’s not the end of the earth). Place in the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes (basting halfway through).
2. Meanwhile, parboil the halved new potatoes for 10 minutes, drain and set aside. Remove the chicken from the oven; put onto a plate to rest (about 20 minutes), and reserve all the pan juices (should be about 400/500ml).
3. In the same roasting tin, put all the potatoes/artichokes ingredients in, mix around the coat all the ingredients in the oil, and put in the oven for 30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan (for the gravy) fry the onion, sugar and mixed herbs in the vegetable oil for 8 minutes, stirring often. Add the pan juices, beef stock and cornflour, and cook on a high heat for 10 more minutes, stirring often, until well thickened. Season well to taste.
5. Carve the meat from the chicken, remove the potatoes/artichokes from the oven, and serve both with generous amounts of the onion gravy!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Recipe: Beef and Butter Bean Stew

This is a sorta hearty, slightly Mexican flavoured beef and bean stew- really filling, tasty and comforting. The smoked paprika gives it such a rich and delicious flavour. I served this with some new season jersey royal potatoes- absolutely love them. I gave up potatoes for a while on my diet, but have actually recently found out potatoes are basically the lowest calorie of all the carbohydrates, so will be eating them much more often now.

Beef and Butter Bean Stew (serves 2/3)

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 white onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp mixed herbs
2 tsp smoked paprika
300g diced stewing beef
1 tin chopped tomatoes
400ml beef stock
1 tin butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp cornflour mixed with a little water
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste

1. Fry the onion, garlic, cayenne pepper, mixed herbs, smoked paprika and beef in the vegetable oil for 7 minutes. Add the beef stock and chopped tomatoes and stew on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.
2. Add the butter beans and cook for a further half an hour.  Add the cornflour, cook on a high heat for a few minutes until the sauce has thickened, season to taste and serve.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Recipe: Beef and Red Wine Casserole

This is really rich and delicious, and doesn't use any complicated ingredients- a bit of a classic really. I made this using a big joint of beef i got from tesco- "1kg Everyday Value Tesco Roasting Joint"- requires a bit of trimming fat off the top of it but other than that a really tasty cheap cut of meat, perfect for roasting, or slow cooking like this. That's the thing about cheap eating- don't be scared to get a cheaper cut and slow-cook it, and also don't be scared to buy bigger cuts and do a bit of carving/ cutting yourself. Remember, you essentially pay for butchery on meat- why do you think skinless chicken breasts are so much more expensive than a whole chicken ey?

Beef and Red Wine Casserole, with Dijon mustard mash (serves 2)

25g butter
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small white onion, diced
300g diced beef roasting joint (fat trimmed off)
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
300ml red wine
500ml beef stock
450g carrots, peeled and sliced thickly
2 generous tsp cornflour, mixed with a little water
Salt, sugar and pepper to taste

1.1kg potatoes, peeled and diced
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Fry the onion, garlic, beef,  and rosemary in the butter in a casserole pot for 10 minutes, stirring often. Add the red wine and cook for a further 4 minutes on a high heat. Add the beef stock and carrots, and cook on a low/medium heat for two hours, stirring every so often.
2. 30 minutes before the casserole is ready, boil the potatoes. Drain, mash the potatoes with the butter, mustard and milk, and season to taste.
3. 5 minutes before the potatoes are ready, add the cornflour mixture into the beef casserole. Increase the heat, and stir the casserole until the sauce has thickened. Season to taste.
4. Serve the delicious beef casserole with a big scoop of the mustardy mash! 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Product Development: Pieminister Lighter Pies

Hi guys! So between July and November I did a product development work placement at a fab company called Pieminister. They are based in Bristol, but sell a range of delicious gourmet pies all over the UK- in supermarkets (Sainsburys, Tesco, Ocado, Waitrose etc.), in local pubs, for private events, and at all the major summer festivals.

It involved the development of a new range of healthy pies- ideal for the summer market and for the increased interest in healthy ready made foods. As well as learning a lot during the placement, I am also currently writing my experiences up into an essay/ presentation for one of my modules for University.

I was very much involved with development of the healthy pastry- which (trying them all last night) I am so unbelievably happy with the end result- absolutely delicious, crisp, and good looking pastry- that keeps it's shape, that's good eaten hot and cold, and that looks scrummy as well as healthy.

Anyway, the three "flavours" that were brought to market in February were "Kooky Chook" (A Thai chicken sweet potato, coconut and chilli pie), "Light as a Feta" (A butternut squash, sundried tomato and feta pie) and "Chickalito" (A chicken, british dry cured ham, courgette and celeriac pie). Every one less than 440 calories! I think my favourite is the Chickalito. They are all being sold in Ocado at the moment so if you fancy giving them a try, I would highly recommend them. I love the fact that something I helped develop are being enjoyed by thousands of people- this is honestly why I  want a future career in product development.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Recipe: Mexican Corn

This was a really nice side dish I made on mother's day, which me and mum had with my caramelised shallot tart (her favourite recipe of mine- it's on the blog). Made it up with what we had in the fridge and cupboards and it turned out to be utterly delicious. I say to use "lager" in this recipe- I think it's good to use a south american lager, like Corona, or Sol, because it adds to the whole Mexican flavour of the dish.

Mexican Sweetcorn (serves 4 as a side dish)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, diced
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
½ tsp mild chilli powder
2 tsp cumin
2 x 340g tins sweetcorn, drained
150ml lager
2 tbsp salsa
Salt and pepper to taste
2 large handfuls fresh coriander
3 tbsp finely grated cheddar

1. Fry the onion, garlic and pepper for 5 minutes. Add the chilli powder and cumin and fry for a further 2 minutes. Add the lager and cook for a further 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the sweetcorn and cook for about 10 minutes.
2. Add the salsa, stir in, season well to taste and garnish with the coriander and grated cheddar.