Burghal (or bulgar as it is known in the Western world) is a bit of a staple in a lot of Assyrian kitchens. Used in salads such as Tabbouleh, or in dishes like Khipti (meatball soup) or Kubbah (stuffed dumplings), … Continue reading
This light lunch is perfect for when you don’t want to use your HexB on bread or a wrap for a sandwich.
You’ll need a chicken breast sliced as thinly as you can, sliced onion, chopped chilli, garlic and coriander. Lemon juice, salt, pepper, two large lettuce leaves (I used romaine), and a tablespoon of extra light mayo for 1/2 syn (I used Aldi Bramwells).
Dry fry the chicken, onion, garlic and chilli until the chicken is browned and cooked through. Throw in most of the coriander, a good squeeze of lemon juice and a good grind of salt and pepper. Spoon into the lettuce leaves, drizzle with the mayo and scatter the rest of the coriander leaves over the top. Ready in 5 minutes although I bet I ate them in less! Delicious!
A few weeks ago my five year old saw ice cream cookie sandwiches being made on Food Network and nagged me to make them ever since. So, one rainy half term day last week we made some, and they looked … Continue reading
I haven’t been sleeping well lately. Well, actually that’s not strictly true…I’ve been struggling to get to sleep then struggling to get up again in the morning, subsequently drinking far too much black coffee to keep me functioning during the day. Anyway, this tiredness coupled with the start of a cold left me hankering for something sweet and stodgy for breakfast this morning. I really fancied proper pancakes with maple syrup and smoked bacon, but actually this is definitely more slimming world friendly.
I took three pieces of crustless wholemeal bread (60g) as my Healthy Extra B choice and brushed the edges with an eggy concoction made by beating an egg with a tsp vanilla extra and a tsp stevia. After brushing the edges, I measured out 1 tbsp Choc Shot (2 syns) and divided between the three pieces of bread dolloping it on one half of each slice. Taking a corner of a slice, I folded it over diagonally to make a samosa shape and used the back of a fork to crimp it down to seal. Once all three were folded and crimped I dripped them all in the remaining eggy mixture before dry frying on a medium heat for a few minutes until they were golden. I served these with some fat free yoghurt mixed with a little vanilla extract and fresh cherries and strawberries. It definitely hit the spot whilst staying on plan! Yum!
Want to see what else I’ve been eating? Check out my Instagram feed here.
If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that since the beginning of the year I have been following the Slimming World plan in a bid to shift a few pounds before my 35th birthday in June. I have been absolutely amazed at how much you can eat and still lose weight! It really isn’t a diet; I’m certainly not missing out on anything, in fact I’m eating more than I was before and getting better results!
At group on Tuesday we had a taster session where members brought in all kinds of delicious food to try and inspire the other members to try new things. The Assyrian in me has been delighted at how easily adaptable a lot of my native dishes are to the Slimming World plan, so I thought I’d rustle up some Dolma (stuffed vine leaves), with Iynee and Gneve (literally translated as eyes and eyelashes! – I know, I don’t get it either. Basically a spicy tomato salsa and greek yoghurt).
They were a hit, with every last one being devoured. They are fiddly to make, but well worth the time investment. Here’s the recipe, passed down from my Granny, to my mum, to me. Enjoy!
2 packets of preserved vine leaves
1lb minced beef or lamb (less than 5% fat). Alternatively you can make these vegetarian by leaving out the meat and adding in an extra half cup of rice.
1 mug basmati rice
1 large onion
5 spring onions
1 green pepper
large bunch of fresh dill
large bunch of fresh parsley
2 cloves crushed garlic
juice of half a lemon
salt & black pepper
1 dsp garam masala
1 tsp cayenne pepper
3 tbsp tomato puree
Soak the preserved vine leaves in boiling water for 5 minutes. Chop the onion, spring onions, tomatoes, celery leaves, green pepper and herbs as finely as possible. Fry the onion and garlic before adding the meat, if using, spices, tomato puree and chopped tomatoes to the pan. and cook through. Allow the mixture to cool before adding in the rest of the ingredients.
While the mixture is cooling sort through the vines leaves, lining the bottom of a heavy casserole pan with any torn ones (this will prevent the dolma from sticking).
When the stuffing is cool, place a dessert spoon of it on the base of a vine leaf, fold the sides in and roll up tightly. Stack the dolmas in the casserole pan as you go. Place a ceramic saucer on top of the dolma once you’ve rolled and staked them all in the pan to prevent them moving around when cooking.
Mix together 1.5 cups of boiling water with 1 chicken stock cube, 1 tbsp tomato puree and the juice of half a lemon. Pour over the dolma and boil them for 15 minutes on a medium heat, before turning down to low and cooking slowly for around 45 minutes. Take care not to overcook – soggy rice is grim.
Serve with Greek yogurt and make a salsa by frying off 1 onion, 1 crushed clove of garlic, and then adding in 1 tbsp tomato puree, 1 tin chopped tomatoes, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, salt and block pepper.
Christmas and cheesecake; two of my most favourite things, so imagine my delight when I first tasted this culinary marvel last year. Probably the most iconic Christmas sweet combined with one of the most versatile desserts I can think of and I knew I wanted to create my own version for this years festivities. Very rich, very decadent and highly calorific this is not an every day dessert, but hey, it’s Christmas so surely we’re all allowed to indulge? This makes a huge cake which should easily serve 16-18.
Firstly cook a standard sized Christmas pudding accord to the instructions on the packet. Once cooked, turn it out and break it up into little pieces allowing it to cool completely.
Whilst the pudding is cooling, make a start on the cheesecake by melting 100g butter and mixing it into 300g crushed ginger biscuits mixed with 1 tsp of ground cinnamon. Press into the bottom of a large springform tin and put in the fridge to chill while you make the cheesecake mixture.
Whisk together 300ml creme fraiche, 500 ml Double cream, 100ml Baileys (you can omit this if you want, just replace with another 100ml of cream), 400g full fat cream cheese and 1 tsp vanilla bean paste until well combined and nice and thick. Fold in the cooled christmas pudding (making sure it is completely cold otherwise it’ll melt the cheesecake mixture) and spread on top of the ginger biscuit base.
Chill overnight, or freeze for use at a later date. Decorate with a spring of holly and serve with pouring cream. Delicious!
For many of us the thought of getting Christmas lunch to the table is a daunting one. The seemingly endless hours of preparation, the impending doom that is the threat of under cooked turkey, potatoes better suited to being fired out of a cannon than served on a dinner plate, and not forgetting the obligatory bitter, soggy sprouts. It’s enough to make even the most au fait home cooks quake in our boots.
Rewind to Christmas 2003. I was a newlywed, 21-year-old girl who’d suddenly found herself single-handedly cooking Christmas lunch for the in-laws at my parents house, who, incidentally weren’t there, as they were spending the holidays in New York with my sister who lived in Cape Cod at the time. I remember feeling pretty out of my depth about the whole thing, wanting to impress and, more importantly, not wanting to land my m-i-l in a&e with food poisoning on Christmas Day. Thankfully, I’d had a practice run with my Dad who showed me what to do and when, writing down the methods and timings as we went. Thank goodness for Dad’s eh? Thirteen years later and I’ve built on my Dad’s way of doing things, adapting recipes to suit our tastes and learning a few new tricks here and there.
In this post I’m going to talk you through how I do Christmas Dinner. Firstly I want to make something quite clear…It is totally acceptable to take shortcuts. It has taken me 13 years of marriage and a whole lot of soul-searching to actually get to the point where I am comfortable in saying that it is perfectly ok to use frozen parsnips and stock from a cube! It’s Christmas Day for goodness sake. You should be spending it with your loved ones, not chained to the kitchen. This is quite comprehensive, but don’t be put off, just pick and chose the bits that work for you. Another tip is to invest in plenty of disposable foil trays. It makes clear up so much easier!
The Pescatarian: My Christmas dinner actually starts a couple of weeks prior to the big day where I set aside some time to bake. My husband is a pescatarian so I try to make him a decent alternative to the traditional turkey or goose. Last year he loved my Vegetarian Christmas Dinner Pie so much he has requested it again. After baking I simply freeze them and take one out on Christmas Eve to defrost before putting it back in the oven for twenty minutes to reheat. Perfect. That’s the veggie sorted.
Turkey Butter: I also often make Herby Butter to slather under the skin of the turkey before roasting to add flavour and help to keep the meat moist. This too can be frozen and taken out a day or so before you want to adorn the bird with it. Finally, if you should wish to make your own stuffing (bearing in mind loads of supermarkets are now stocking their own wide variety of flavours) I can recommend Delia’s Pork & Chestnut Stuffing recipe, which can also be made in advance and frozen.
Stock: Now, I realise I’ve already said it’s fine to use pre-made stock, and it absolutely is, but should you be inclined to make your own here’s how I do it, and the benefit of doing it this way is that you can do it way in advance. Throughout the year I save up any chicken bones and freeze them in a ziplock bag. Every time I cook a chicken I strip it and add the bones to the bag. Once the bag is full I roast them in a hot oven for 30 mins, then throw them in the slow cooker with a couple of carrots, celery and leak, cover with boiling water and leave them to cook for about 48 hours, topping up the water when necessary. After a couple of days drain to remove the bones and vegetables and you’ll be left with the most amazing stock. Leave to cool and then freeze in a ziplock bag.
Pigs in blankets: Again you can make these ahead, put them in foil trays, freeze and cook on the day. An even easier option of course would be to buy pre-prepared ones and freeze.
Seriously, if you have a freezer, use it to your advantage. You’ll thank it on Christmas Eve when you’re taking all the stuff out of it and have halved your prep time.
Right, lets move forward to Christmas Eve:
Firstly, if you haven’t already take all the goodies you’ve already prepped out of the freezer to defrost. Now allow yourself and hour and a half or so to get all the following done (allow longer for cooking the ham).
Ham: If you’re planning on serving ham with your Christmas Lunch I’d get it on in the morning. I swear by Nigella’s Ham in Cola recipe. It really is delicious and like all of her recipes, pretty straightforward. You can either serve it cold or heat it up right before serving.
Roast Potatoes: Everyone loves a good roast spud, but who wants to be peeling a bag of maris pipers on Christmas morning? Definitely not me. I prep mine on Christmas Eve following my Ultimate Roast Potato recipe. Instead of cooking them all the way through though, I put them in a hot oven for 40 minutes to get them going then remove, allow to cool and put in the fridge to finish off for another 45/50 minutes on Christmas Day.
Cauliflower Cheese: While the potatoes are getting their sizzle on in the oven make a start on the cauli. I’ll be using my Whole Baked Cauliflower Cheese recipe, but should you wish to segment the cauli to make serving it up easier than just reduce the steaming time to about 5 minutes.
Carrots and Broccoli: I just tend to wash and prep these and put them in the steamer ready to go the following day.
Braised red cabbage: Again this is something a lot of supermarkets are now selling pre-prepared, but should you wish to make your own, I love this BBC recipe and you can easily reheat it the following day.
Sprouts: After washing and removing and tough outer leaves, I slice them in half, throw them in a roasting tray with a good glug of oil, some diced pancetta (or bacon) and a couple of cloves of garlic, season with salt and pepper and pop them in the fridge for the following day.
The Turkey: The main event! The star of the show! The one thing you really want to get right. If you’ve bought frozen make sure you allow plenty of time for it to defrost in the fridge. Remove the giblets and save for the gravy. Gently slide your hand in between the meat and the skin. It should come away fairly easily and you’ll be able to smear the herby butter in between the flesh and the skin, and on top of the skin on the legs. Stuff the neck cavity with the pork and chestnut stuffing, but I tend to leave the cavity empty. Crisscross smoked streaky bacon on top. Cover with foil and put back in the fridge.
Whack the oven up to full blast and pour yourself a bucks fizz, glass of prosecco or something stronger if you’re hardcore.
Turkey: Take it out of the fridge about an hour before you want to cook it to bring it back up to room temperature. Pop it in the oven then immediately turn the oven down to about 180oC. Baste it every 45 minutes or so with all those lovely juices. This year I’ll be getting an 8 or 9kg bird as we’re feeding a crowd, and it will probably take between 4 and a half and 5 hours to cook. I’ll probably put it in the oven at 8am, and expect it to be ready between 12.30pm and 1pm. About half an hour before the allotted time remove the tin foil to allow the bacon to crisp up a bit. Once the juices run clear from the thickest part of the thigh it’s done. Remove from the oven, cover in with two layers of tin foil and place two clean tea towels on top. It will happily rest here for an hour until everything else is cooked and you’re ready to serve and by that time the meat will be lovely.
Gravy: Once you’ve got the bird in the oven take your giblets, and a diced onion and saute in a pan with some oil. Add in the stock, some sage and a bay leaf, and simmer continuously for a couple of hours adding more stock or water as needed. Add in the juices from the turkey once it has cooked, and thicken with cornflour. Taste and season accordingly. Pass through a sieve to remove all the bits et voila, beautiful gravy.
Everything Else: When the turkey is cooked and is resting, it’s time to get on with everything else.
- Put the part cooked potatoes on the top shelf and the parsnips just below. I will be cheating on the parsnips and relying on good old Aunt Bessie because her parsnips are arguably the best I’ve tasted!
- While they’re cooking slice the ham, put in a dish with a tablespoon of water and cover with foil.
- After 20 mins toss the parsnips and potatoes and put them back in along with the cauliflower cheese, brussels sprouts, pigs in blankets and veggie pie if you’re doing it.
- Cook for another 20 mins before adding the sliced ham and red cabbage to the bottom of the oven to warm up.
- Add boiling water to the bottom of the steamer and steam the veggies for 8 minutes. Pour the water away but leave the lid on to prevent over cooking. There’s nothing more disgusting than soggy broccoli.
- Stick the plates in the microwave to warm along with the bread sauce (again I will be cheating on this year and buying it pre-made)
- Put the turkey on a platter and surround it with the pigs in blankets and roasties.
- Put the veg in serving dishes.
- Get a helper to move it all out onto the table.
- Top up your wine glass and…….
Phew! I’m exhausted just thinking about it! Of course the other option is doing what by BFF does every year and ordering it all in ready prepared on foil trays….now there’s a thought!
I don’t know about you, but I love waking up in the morning to the smell of something warming and delicious, it makes coming round from a good night’s sleep more bearable! The smell I usually come alive to is … Continue reading
I can hardly believe almost six months have passed since my last post. Summer came and went in a whirl and here we are enjoying some of the best autumn weather we’ve had for a few years. Crisp mornings, crunchy leaves underfoot and that rich, low sunshine we only get this time off year. Perfect for hearty warming comfort food and this twist on Eve’s pudding certainly fits the bill. A total mash up between three of my favourite flavours, apples, pumpkin spice and toffee, you’ll have to have some pretty impressive willpower to resist seconds of this indulgent treat.
Ingredients for the pudding:
3 large bramley apples, peeled cored and finely diced
350g butternut squash, peeled and chopped
150ml vegetable oil
2 large eggs
250g soft light brown sugar
180g self raising flour
1 tsp bi-carb soda
Pumpkin spice mix made by mixing 3 tbsp ground cinnamon, 1 tbsp ground ginger, 1 whole grated nutmeg and half a tsp ground cloves.
For the toffee sauce:
250g light brown sugar
400ml double cream
2tsp pumpkin spice mix
Put the squash in a bowl with a splash or two of water. Cover with cling film and microwave on high for 5 minutes.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together until they are the same consistency of a thick milkshake. By now the butternut squash should be tender. Put it in a blender with the oil and whizz until you have a smooth puree. I used my nutribullet which works a treat.
Pour the mixture on top of the apples and bake at 160oC (fan) for approximately 50 minutes until a skewer comes out of the cake clean.
I have a lovely friend who is celebrating a birthday today. She’s one of those rare gems who is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. She spends so much time looking after everybody and is so generous in every sense of the word she definitely deserves to be spoilt on her birthday. I wanted to make her a cake that reflects her: beautiful, elegant and very special. Cue the cigarellos…
These rolled chocolate straws instantly add a little sophistication to any cake. I used these from the Chocolate Trading Co.
I like making cakes that have three thin layers of sponge as I think they look lovely when cut, and allow for more filling (which incidently is very forgiving should you accidentally over bake them. The extra filling helps moisten the sponge). I just used a basic Victoria sponge recipe which you can find here, on the BBC Good Food website. If you’re doing three layers I suggest reducing the oven temp to 160oC, and the time to between 12-15 mins.
Once cooled, fill your cake with whatever you want. I used seedless raspberry jam this time.
Now you’re ready to proceed with the decorating. Make a generous amount of buttercream using a pack of unsalted butter, icing sugar, a couple of tsps of vanilla bean paste and a few splashes of milk to loosen. The consistency should be spreadable, but still fairly stiff. Secure your cake to the cake board using a dollop of buttercream. I find it easiest to pipe the buttercream onto the cake, starting with the gaps around the edges.
Once you’ve filled the gaps in, continue piping until the entire cake is covered with a thick layer. This doesn’t have to be neat.
Now take a palette knife and smooth the surfaces down. Again, don’t worry about getting perfect edges as it’s all going to be covered with the cigarellos and fruit.
Wipe away any stray smears of buttercream off the board. Now you’re ready to start attaching the cigarellos by gently pushing them into the buttercream, which is effectively used as glue to hold them in place. Start at the back of the cake if you’re adding any additional decoration to the front (a name on the board for example). You will end up with something similar to this:
I decided to top mine with strawberries and raspberries. Wash and hull them and dry well on paper towels. Take the largest strawberry and cut the point off the end. Push a candle in and add a dollop of leftover buttercream to the bottom before securing it to the middle of the cake.
Now add the rest of the fruit, strawberries first to avoid crushing the delicate raspberries. Crush a couple of cigarellos in your hand and sprinkle over the fruit as a final flurry!
The birthday girl was happy!