Tag Archives: Low-carbohydrate diet

The best mayonnaise (and tartare sauce) and it’s easy peasy too

21 Sep

There are far too many cookery programmes on TV these days.

This statement may surprise you, as I’m clearly somewhat obsessed with food and cooking. But cookery has become entertainment, and in my world it’s not the cooking itself that should be entertainment, but the resulting food. Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the sociability and enjoyment of cooking alongside other people, but that isn’t what most of these programmes are about. There are too many competitive cookery programmes where the point of the programme is to see people mess up, to see a souffle flop; a bread become a brick; a sauce split.

But I do watch cookery programmes, usually ones I can learn from.

And I’ve been surprised this last week to find myself enjoying The Hairy Bikers Best of British. Yesterday afternoon I learned how to make a Pease Pudding, something I’d never really thought of as a real food before, just a line in a song. So sometime in the future I’ll be making Gammon with Pease Pudding and Mustard Sauce – warming food for the winter months.

This weekend I made scampi, with tartare sauce. And ate it in front of the TV, in homage to the 70s. It was divine. The tartare sauce was particularly lush, and I share it here.

Luscious mayonnaise

Luscious mayonnaise

 

Start off by making your own mayonnaise. If you’ve not made mayonnaise before then you might have an idea that it’s incredibly tricky. It’s not. And it doesn’t take long either, so long as you have a hand held beater, or muscles like Pop-Eye and a balloon whisk.

 

Mayonnaise

  • 2 free range egg yolks
  • 1 TBsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard (smooth would be best, but my cupboards dictated I had 1 tsp smooth, 1 crunchy and it was fine)
  • 1/4 tsp caster sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 50ml olive oil
  1. Place the egg yolks, vinegar, mustard, sugar and salt in a bowl and start whisking. I recommend you use an electric beater. Keep whisking till the mixture is smooth
  2. Keep whisking
  3. Add the oil drop by single drop
  4. Keep whisking
  5. The oil will emulsify with the yolkie mixture, and after a wee while you can start adding the oil in a slow trickle
  6. Keep whisking
  7. If you’re feeling brave, start pouring the oil in (still relatively slowly, but steadily)
  8. Keep whisking
  9. Once all the oil is added, you should have some thick, smooth and luscious mayonnaise.
Making mayo

Making mayo

 

Put half the mayonnaise in a jar in the fridge and use within the next week. It is amazing on a wholemeal roll with smoked ham. Or with warm boiled new potatoes folded into it. Or on a white bread fish finger sandwich,

But you’re going to make tartare sauce with the other half that is still in the bowl.

Making tartare sauce

Making tartare sauce

 

Tartare Sauce

  • Half quantity of the mayonnaise you have just made
  • 2 TBsp capers, dried on kitchen roll and then roughly chopped
  • 4 cornichons, dried and cut in half lengthwise and then sliced finely
  • 1 large TBsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 small TBsp chopped fresh tarragon
  1. Gently stir all the ingredients together
  2. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste

Eat with scampi. Or fish goujons. Or go and buy a fish supper and eat it with your own fresh tartare sauce, and feel proud.

A bowl of perfect tartare saue

A bowl of perfect tartare saue

 

 

 

 

Going to work on an egg (or the arrival of my Greek heroes)

13 Oct

People who know me may know that for some years now I have wanted to have chickens. I don’t really know when this desire first rooted in my heart, but I suspect it was long long ago on summer holidays up at Marbrack, a Galloway hill farm where my Aunt Joyce lived (with my Uncle Frank and 5 of my cousins).

Marbrack had one of those lovely farmhouse kitchens, the real heart of the home. We all sat on a long wooden bench at the even longer kitchen table, with our backs warmed by the rayburn behind us. The same rayburn which occasionally would bring a wee cold dying lamb back to life in the bottom oven (or have I made that bit up?). And the same rayburn which produced all manner of delicious teatime treats, including scotch pancakes (drop scones) freshly made straight from the hot plate.

Anyway, I think we went to stay a few days every summer holidays. My memory is of being a hopelessly shy child, especially around all my big boy cousins, so I spent most of the time close to Aunt Joyce’s apron strings. Spending time in the kitchen was bliss – there was the huge bowl of fresh milk to be brought in from the back kitchen, so I could skim off the cream from the top. And there were cakes to bake. But best of all, there were chickens. Each day we would take a pail of scraps out to the chickens, and then would look for the eggs. Thinking about it, now I know why there were so many cakes – all those eggs to use up!

For years I lived in London and there was no possibility of having chickens in a basement flat, so it wasn’t until my life changed a few years ago that I thought about being able to have my own chickens.

And now that I live in the country I have my own three wee chook chooks.

And thanks to The Song of Achilles being our recent book group book, two of the chickens are named after Greek heroes – well, one Greek hero and one Prince of Troy: Achilles and Hector. The third is called wee Tommy.

And yes, I know these are boys names.

Two things:

  1. I don’t suppose chickens know the difference between a girls and a boys name
  2. If by chance they do, I feel very comfortable with gender dysmorphic / transsexual chickens in my coop. And they seem very comfortable with it too.

l to r: wee Tommy, Achilles, Hector

And after three days I’m getting three eggs a day from these wee heroes. When I go out in the morning and call them they come running out of their wee hen house to see what treats I might have brought them, and they peck around my feet. I’ve learnt that shoes with shiny buckles are too enticing for chickens. And that a corn on the cob on a string is the best sport for chickens in a coop.

So, there will be many more pictures, and many recipes for what to do with an egg laid by a Trojan Prince. But for now, I give you my failsafe boiled egg for breakfast recipe.

The perfect boiled egg

Now, of course if you have access to a super fresh egg, straight from a Trojan Prince that is what you should use. Otherwise, just use an egg from an egg box. But I hope your egg is at least free range – those batteries are nasty places, and I hate to think of hens cooped up with no space to move about and be inately henny.

And where do you keep your eggs? Mine are kept at room temperature, so they are at the same temperature as everything else when I am baking cakes. I don’t see the point of keeping them in a fridge, they don’t need it. Or not in our cold kitchen anyway! If you have a larder that is where I would keep them.

The best place for eggs

Anyway.

Get a small saucepan, and pop your egg in the bottom of the pan. Pour water over the egg, so the egg is just covered with water. If your eggs is super fresh it will sit on the bottom of the pan. If it’s been around a wee while one end might bob up to the top, which is fine. If the whole thing properly floats I would chuck it – it’s been around too long and may be icky.

Place the pan over the heat – a medium heat is fine – and bring to the boil.

At this point you should make your toast if you want any.

Once the water is properly boiling, put your timer on for one minute. The water should be properly boiling, not like wild rapids so the egg is being thrown about the pan, and not a wee soft simmer, but something in between.

After a minute, take the pan off the heat.

Get your egg cup ready and pop your egg on the egg cup. It should be at that delicious soft yolk stage. And all you need with it is a scrunch of black pepper, and a teaspoon for breakfast perfection. Of course if you made that toast, then a single slice of hot buttered toast works (perhaps with a scraping of marmite, if you’re feeling in need of a salty hit and some B vitamins).

For a low carb diet a boiled egg (or two) for breakfast is just perfect – in fact for everyone it is the best start to the day, with a wee hit of protein to get you up and keep you going till lunchtime.

Chicken chasseur

12 Jun

So, I’m trying to be really organised, planning meals in advance and doing a big shop once a week in Edinburgh. And this week I’ve got some of it right. I did the big shop (online, delivered yesterday evening) and then started the planning once I had the food in my cupboards and the fridge. Clearly that’s the wrong way around, but it’s ok.. it’s coming together. And next week I’ll be better and plan first, shop second.

The other problem with my shop is that I hadn’t been home in my flat for ten days, so the shopping was sort of done from memory. As a result I’ve got LOTS of flour, and am running out of washing up liquid. Ah well, first world problems!

Anyway, this evening my plan told me that supper would be made from chicken, mushrooms, potato. And perhaps carrot and courgette. This was all pointing towards a chicken chasseur. Chasseur recipes are meals that hunters might eat (I think) … although I suspect that no self-respecting hunter would eat the chicken I was going to cook. But I think it is the mushrooms that all chasseurs traditionally have. Or am I entirely wrong and that’s a chicken forestiere? Oh, I really must do some research before I start trying to write about things I think I know more about than I really do.

But this is my version of what I am going to call chicken chasseur. It’s relatively cheap, easy to adapt, and pretty healthy. I’m trying to lose weight at the moment. Trying? I’m succeeding! I’m on weightwatchers, and it’s working really well for me, losing between 1 and 2lbs a week. And this recipe works well on the weightwatchers system. So I’ll be having leftovers for lunch tomorrow with some bulgur wheat!

Chicken Chasseur

  • 600g chicken thighs (between 6 and 8 thighs probably). Either leave them whole, or cut them into chunks… cut off any fat, to keep it healthy
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut in half then sliced thinly, in half moon shapes
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped into wee chunks
  • 1 red pepper, cut into chunks
  • about 300g chestnut mushrooms, cut in half
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • thyme – either dried or fresh, or parsley
  1. Brown the chicken thighs in a large frying pan. If you have an oil sprayer, then use that, if you don’t then use a minimum amount of oil so the thighs don’t stick
  2. Remove the chicken from the pan and put to one side
  3. Lightly fry the onion in the pan for 3-4 minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients, and add the chicken back into the pan
  4. Add a half a pint or so of water. Ideally everything should be in the sauce, although it doesn’t need to be entirely submerged.
  5. Stir it gently, then cover the pan and let it bubble away for about 30 minutes. Less time if you cut those thighs into bits before you started.
And that’s it. Serve it with bulgur wheat. Or a baked potato. Or potato wedges, done in the oven with other roasted veg such as courgettes, and onions. That’s what I had this evening and it was super tasty.
And now I’m going to be really geeky and make a list of the foods I have in my cupboard, so I can tick things off when I need them and be more organised with my shopping, and eating. Yeah, go me, I’m so rock n roll!

Bready things

6 May

Some of you might know that I’ve been trying a low carb diet for the past few months. While I’ve been generally feeling less lethargic and slightly healthier, I haven’t continued to lose weight after the first month, so I’ve changed tack and am now trying weightwatchers again.

But that’s all dull. Diets are dull. People who talk about diets (as opposed to food) are dull. OK, they’re not all dull, but it’s the food that is inherently interesting, not the way my body or your body metabolises it.  Isn’t it?

Anyway, the low carb thing had meant that I’d stopped buying or making bread. I thought this would be really hard; I love bread. I love hot toast with butter. I love bread and honey. I love bread and butter pudding. I love toasted cheese on toast. I love croutons. I love fingers of toast with butter and marmite. And peanut butter. It’s really no wonder I’m overweight, is it?

However, I found giving up bread much easier than I imagined. It’s nice to have an egg for breakfast. Two is better.  Scrambled with a bit of butter and a teeny wee pinch of Maldon sea salt is divine, especially with a good grinding of black pepper once it’s served. And really, it doesn’t need toast to make it a superlative breakfast. Lightly boiled eggs for breakfast are also a winning start to the morning. And genuinely, since I started having eggs instead of toast or porridge for breakfast, I’ve found I don’t get hungry and want a snack mid morning. And that’s a good thing, as when I WANT a snack, I tend to have a snack.

But… all this is dull diet stuff.  The important thing is that I decided to quit this low carb regime, which meant a renewed interest in bready goods again. Now, if I’m going to eat bread, I’m going to eat the nicest bread I can have. And that, for me, means making it myself. It could also mean going to Strathaven and buying bread from Alexander Taylor‘s but I’m not sure I can justify the food miles every week. They were at the local farmers’ market yesterday, but I’d completely forgotten it was the first weekend of the month and forgot to go. Ah well, next month.

For a while I’ve been thinking about flour. I want artisanal flour. Yeah, I know how middle class that sounds. What I mean is that I want great quality flour which will make superb loaves almost without thinking. And, here’s the romantic in me, I want it to come from a proper mill. A watermill, or a windmill, I don’t mind. I want the wheat to be organic, and GM free.  I want to know that the millers are using time honoured traditional methods to mill my flour. Is that too much to ask?

Clearly it’s not. I researched a few places online and kept coming back to a Welsh mill, Bacheldre Mill. Take a look, I think you’ll like the cut of their jib.  They are artisanal millers of exceptional flours, so they say. And I would tend to agree.

So, this week we took delivery of 16kg of stoneground unbleached white flour and 4 x 1.5kg bags of their malted 5 seed flour. And oooh la la, I’m a happy baker. OK, I’ve only used the bread machine so far. Yup, I said it. I use a bread machine. And I am not ashamed of that. It is easy, it is quick (in terms of my time input) and it produces delicious bread with great texture. Most of the time.

So, on Friday night I made a 5 seed loaf. I’d forgotten there was fennel in it, which gives it that lovely almost aniseedy kick.  Great with smoked cheddar (from The Galloway Smokehouse at Carsluith) and home made apple chutney. Also great with home made blackcurrant jelly, allegedly.  I suspect it will add a new dimension to home made pizza too.

Anyway, such is my love for this proper flour that I am moved to make a new sourdough starter. I had a sourdough starter last year and loved it… but one fateful weekend I made a loaf and forgot to keep back any of the starter and that was the end of it. So, it is definitely time to make some more. I love sourdough. It doesn’t have the easy nature of the machine bread, but it rewards you with great flavour and texture. And in the end doesn’t really take up too much time, if you’re organised (which contrary to popular belief, I am).

Anyway, here is my bread machine recipe for Bacheldre Mill’s 5 Seed Loaf.

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp milk powder
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (I used half olive, half sunflower oil)
  • 2 heaped Tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups Bacheldre Mill’s malted 5 seed flour
  • 1 cup strong white flour
  • 1 tsp fast action yeast
  1. Add the ingredients, in the order they are listed, to the tin in your bread machine
  2. Cook on 1 1/2lb wholemeal setting
Voila! You have delicious tasty bread.
I think it’s steak sandwiches later. That’s if I can resist making some pizza.

Spicy turmeric chicken

2 May

I love recipe books, and have a relatively large collection. One I’ve owned for a while, but have cooked little from is Leon’s Naturally Fast Food. It’s a beautiful thing, lovely design (although will it seem very dated when I look back at it in 10 years time?) and some great recipes for making fast, fresh food.

This morning before I left for work I had a quick flick through the recipes and decided to make their South Indian Pepper Chicken. It’s a beautifully simple recipe, and pretty low fat, so it’s my kinda healthy too.

South Indian Pepper Chicken

  • A drizzle of olive oil (use the stuff from the spray bottle if you care, otherwise use about a teaspoonful)
  • About 500g skinless, boneless chicken thighs, diced
  • Maldon sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped
  • about 1″ root ginger, chopped fine
  • 1 large onion, cut in half, then sliced finely to give thin crescent shapes
  • a heaped tsp turmeric
  • 2 tomatoes, roughly diced
  1. Heat the oil in large frying pan, add the chicken pieces, then sprinkle on a good pinch of sea salt and LOTS of black pepper. Stir it about then add some more black pepper
  2. Cook for a few minutes, till the chicken browns. Then tip it out of the pan into a bowl and set aside
  3. Add the garlic, onion, ginger and turmeric to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes
  4. Add the tomatoes and a good glug of water and stir together
  5. Add the chicken back into the pan and cook with a lid on for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked. Take the lid off and reduce the sauce down a little if it’s all too wet still.
Serve with rice and kale. I had no rice in the flat, so had it with noodles instead and it was bloody lovely. This is enough to serve 2 or 3, depending how hungry you are, and what you’re serving it with.

Gumbo party

14 Mar

Is it a soup?

Is it a stew?

It’s a gumbo!

One of my colleagues is in his early 20s and is really just learning about cooking properly. A few weeks ago he was very proud of the chicken gumbo he had made. He was surprised how easy it was to make something so tasty.

Fast forward to this Monday, and I was at a bit of a loss as to what to cook for supper. All I knew I had in the fridge was a chorizo sausage. So, my colleague suggested chicken gumbo. Perfect!

The basic recipe which inspired this is on the bbc good food website here. If you haven’t checked out the recipes on bbc good food, you’ve missed out.  Go on, have a browse – they have more pics than I usually do.

A top tip here: chop up everything else and put them in bowls (doubling things up that are being thrown in the pan together) before you cut up your chicken. That way, you just need to clean the knife and the board at the end.

Chicken Gumbo

  • 4 – 5 chicken thighs, cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smooshed up
  • 1 green chilli, sliced finely
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped finely
  • 1 TBsp plain flour
  • 1 large tin/carton chopped tomatoes
  • a chicken stock cube
  • a mug of boiling water
  • 1 courgette, cut into chunks
  • 2 red peppers, cut into chunks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a couple of stalks of fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • about 100g chorizo, chopped into chunks
  • a couple of new potatoes, cut into small chunks
  • a few handfuls of spinach
  1. Using a wee bit of oil, fry off the chicken in a large heavy bottomed frying pan
  2. Remove the chicken, and let it rest in a bowl till you’re ready for it again
  3. Add the celery and onion to the pan, and cook over a gentle heat till the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for another couple of minutes
  4. Add the flour to the veg, stir and cook for a minute or so.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes, chicken stock cube and boiling water and stir together
  6. Put the chicken back in the pan, followed by all other ingredients, except for the spinach, and simmer with a lid on for about 20 minutes
  7. Add the spinach and stir through – it won’t really need further cooking as the spinach will just wilt into the gumbo
  8. EAT!
This is great the next day once the flavours have melded together. I had it on its own as there is plenty veg in there with the meat. However, if you want more carbs, it would be lovely with noodles or rice.
It’s a pretty flexible recipe – add peas, sweetcorn, even prawns or fish. And make it as spicy or plain as you want. But you knew that already.
Next year it’s Gumbo instead of pancakes for Shrove Tuesday!

Bringing home the bacon

16 Feb

Well, the plan is I won’t need to bring it home for much longer, as I’ll be curing my own!

I started my first cure this evening. Verdict in about a weeks’ time.

Dry sweetcure

Pork belly in a bag with sweetcure mix

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