Apologies – reboot

I've been very bad about posting here. Some of that is to do with not being interested in food a lot pretty much since Christmas, some of it is sheer laziness. I want to get back into the habit, so I'm going to post regularly as much as I can. Which may mean a few posts will look at bit make-weight, but it's all in a good cause.

So, where are we?

Back on the DrGourmet plan mostly, in fact I had an email from them the other day saying that because I'm in some discussion groups and forums and mailing lists and suchlike, I can beta test a more interactive customised plan. I've sent off the data on us (height, weight, targets, dislikes) and we'll see what happens. Our major slippage, which is still a temptation, and we fell for it again this week, is to buy picnic lunches for the weekends. French crusty bread, real butter, pates, cheeses, salami, creamy dressed salads, especially coleslaw. We are better at it than we used to be, we eat less I think, but a lot of it is high in fat and salt. I try to buy fruit to go with it – apples, grapes, cherries, soft summer fruit, but it's very much an afterthought. And of course we don't finish it all in one go, so you end up buying top-ups and having it again.

In product news, our Waitrose has started stocking a whole new section of Japanese foods, with different brands and a wider range than they had before. No wasabi paste anymore, but they do have the powder, even if it is one of the cheaper ones that's cut with horseradish. Lower sodium soy sauce, which is one of the DrGourmet ingredients I haven't been able to get before. Some seaweeds, umeboshi puree, things like that. The Thai range looks a lot better too, I didn't go poking around in any detail.

For tea tonight we have four each large scallops with the roe, which I intend poaching in some white wine with herbs, and serving with some white bread and plain sliced pan-fried courgettes with a squeeze of lemon. It should be this – Scallops with Herbed Butter – but that's a lot of faff for a very similar result.

That's enough for today, I can feel more words dribbling out of my fingers and I want to save them for later.

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Blueberry Muffins

DrGourmet has changed the Blueberry Muffin recipe, which I used to have a lot for breakfast. The new one has loads more fibre, and I'm sure will be very nice. But I like the old one too! good job I printed it off. This quantity made 6 big muffins, at 174 cals per muffin. It doubled up easily, and you could freeze them individually, they defrost overnight in the fridge.

 

  • 3 tbsps light spread
  • 0.5 cup Splenda
  • No-fat dried egg subsitute, 1 egg's worth, plus the liquid to make it up
  • 2 tbsps non-fat yoghourt
  • 0.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups plain flour
  • 0.25 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 0.25 tsp baking soda
  • 0.5 cup non-fat buttermilk
  • 0.5 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to Gas Mark 5.

Cream the spread and Splenda til smooth, whisk in the yoghourt and vanilla.

Sift in the dry ingredients. Gently fold together, adding buttermilk and the required amount of water for the egg substitute. (If you're out of egg substitute, put 1 whole egg in with the yoghourt.) Don't overmix. Fold in the blueberries last.

Put in a muffin tin, with papers if you can get them.

He says bake 12-15 minutes, but that was never enough, I found half an hour was better.

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Curried Fish with Pistachio

Tonight we tried a new DrGourmet recipe, Pistachio Crusted Grouper Braised in Curry . Grouper isn't easily available over here, but our fishmonger had caught it in Florida, and recommended if we were after something similar but not too ordinary, we could try barramundi. And very edible it was too. The basic recipe involves coating 2 x 4oz fillets of fish in 3/4 oz pistachio nuts, ground, and baking in a very hot oven (gas mark 9) in a sprayed pre-heated skillet, 8 – 10 minutes, turning once.

Meanwhile you heat in the microwave:

 

1/4 cup grapefruit juice
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 tsp. salt
  fresh ground black pepper
1 pinch grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. curry powder
1/8 tsp garam masala
2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. fresh lime juice

and pour it over the fish and bake for about another 4 minutes.

I was quite concerned as I don't usually think curry spices do well unless dry-fried or heated in oil first. And the amount of acid looked a bit iffy. I left out the salt as I use bottled chicken stock concentrate which is salty anyway. When I took the fish out of the oven the sauce had dried away, and had to be resurrected with some additional hot water. I'd tipped the remainder of the pistachios from the fish-coating plate in with it, and it was definitely trying hard to be a korma. It was vaguely curry-tasting, but overall a bit bland – a lot of his curries are far too mild for British tastes. We'll definitely have it again, but I'll pick a more robust fish, monkfish would do well I think, or just a plain white fish block. The remainder of the nuts could be ground finer and heated with the sauce separately to thicken it more, and keep it softer. The fish coating would have been crunchier, which would have made more it more interesting in terms of texture. Extra heat, either from some fresh chilli in the sauce, extra curry powder, or some dried chilli flakes in the pistachio coating.

We had plain basmati rice with it, and some melon on the side because I couldn't be bothered to do a real fresh chutney or raita. It does need a fresh savoury crunch with it though, something with tomatoes and red onion maybe. And you could blitz a load of fresh coriander into the sauce to make a pesto-sort-of-thing. You've got plenty of calories to play with, the fish dish comes in at 204 per serving.

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Spinach Salad with Ginger Dressing and Sesame Chicken

This is a drgourmet recipe, which I've adapted for British (well, Waitrose) packet sizes. It's really lovely. The original recipe says serve with brown bread and orange marmalade, but it's fine on its own.

390 cals per serving, makes 2 dinners and a lunch for later.

Strain a 454 gm tin mandarin oranges in juice, or two small tins. Keep the juice (the original recipe says frozen concentrate, and assumes that you can only get mandarins in syrup).

Make a dressing with 2 Tbsps grapeseed oil, 1/4 cup of the juice, 1/8 tsp each salt and pepper, a handful of parsley, and a handful of chives (or a spring onion if you can't get chives). Whizz them all in a blender with 2 Tbps of Ming Ginger, not the sugar coated crystallised ginger cubes, but the less sweet dried slices. If you just pulse it in the blender you'll get small bits of ginger left in it, not a smooth smooth dressing that loses its oomph. Chill.

Toast 3 Tbsps flaked almonds, and slice half a red onion really thinly.

Heat a heavy pan and sprinkle with a tiny bit of olive oil. Add a pack of mini chicken breast meat strips, about 350 gms. Sprinkle the upside with a very little salt and 3 Tbsps sesame seeds. (Recipe says black sesame seeds, which I have used, but they oozed black colouring all over the chicken. Yuck.) Cook until done on the bottom, turn, and cook again until done all the way through and the sesame seeds are dark golden and well crunchy.

Put 2 bags baby spinach salad in a big bowl and toss with the dressing.

Lay out 2 plates and 1 lunch box. Start with the spinach, then the onions, orange pieces, and almonds. Top with the chicken, seeded side up.

Yummity yum yum yum.

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Cucumbers in Vinegar

We often have the drgourmet Thai Cucumber Salad, as a side with Thai or Indian dishes, or cold meat. It reminds John of a cucumber salad dressed with vinegar that his Gran used to make. I ring the changes every so often – I tend not to put the peanuts in at all, and have changed the coriander for mint, and added grated fresh ginger to it. I use bottled lime juice instead of the lime zest as well. So at core it's sweetened acid with Tabasco, and chopped onion.

In Amsterdam at Cafe Wanpipel on Albert Cuyp Straat, we had Surinamese food. There were Indian style curries, but served with Indonesian fried rice or noodles, and a big salad topping. Part of the salad was long cucumber chunks, that had been marinaded in something similar to the drgourmet dressing, but a lot browner, heavier and sweeter. I suspect palm sugar of some sort.

 

So I've been fiddling again. We're having home-made chicken satay tonight, using the sate spice mix I brought back from the Peperbol shop (again on Albert Cuyp Straat, part of the Mart).

I've cut the cucumber into long thick wedges, and sprinkled half a red onion in medium slices over it. I've mixed a dressing of: clear rice vinegar, black rice vinegar, fish sauce, Splenda, a tiny bit of dark maple syrup, quite a bit of Tabasco, and bottled lime juice. No herbs, I'm going to make a Chinese leaf salad as well, put the cucumber on top of that and add fresh coriander leaf at the end.

I'll make a peanut dipping sauce as well, similar to the drgourmet Thai Peanut Sauce. Peanut butter thinned down and with chilli of some kind in it, anyway. Grilled marinated chicken, and some plain boiled Jasmine Rice.

The drgourmet salad calorie count is 46 calories per cup of salad.

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Chinesey Beans and Sea Bass

Today we were supposed to have drgourmet's Sea Bass with White Beans and Tomato Vinaigrette. But we couldn't go shopping until today, and it being Monday the store had very low stocks of fresh fish. He did have two small sea bass fillets, marinaded in soy and peppers and spring onion. So I brought them home and baked them quickly in a hot oven and served them with:

Most of a medium carrot, match-sticked, and the white part of a leek, finely chopped, stir-fried in a sprinkling of dark sesame oil with a teaspoon each of lazy garlic and ginger. I added a drained tin of white beans (cannellini), a tin of four slices of pineapple in juice, cut up but with the juice, a half cup of chicken stock, and two tablespoons of black rice vinegar and simmered it while the fish was cooking. When the beans were nearly dry, I dished up and sprinkled some fresh coriander on the top.

OK, could have used a bit more punch. Maybe next time some fresh spring onion at the last minute, or a bit more vinegar or chili at the end. Lime peel?

I suspect the calorific value wasn't that far off the original, with the pineapple subbing for the tomato.

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Crabstick Salad

I made Crab Louis once from the Dr Gourmet menus, and it was a bit mustardy for me. Plus crabmeat is appallingly expensive, and I quite like crabsticks. But you have to take into account how sweet they are.

So tonight I made a Crabstick Salad, which will do for 2 lunches, with 2 slices of omega-3 high-bran seeded bread for each serving. See what I think tomorrow ..

2 Tbsps finely chopped fresh dill

1 big gherkin / dill pickle, chopped quite small

2 Tbsps fat free yoghourt

2 Tbsps lowest fat mayonnaise (not that you should call it mayo, but it has body and bite)

2 Tbsps lemon juice

1 Tbsp whole-grain mustard

2 smallish spring / green onions, finely chopped

10 crabsticks, sliced

 

Bit more Scandinavian, less Creole, sweet but tart rather than hot.

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