Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Quorn Lasagne


As I frequently make my own Quorn Lasagne anyway, I was intrigued to find out how this recipe would compare. I tend to just ad lib with quorn mince, tinned tomatoes and whatever veg I have lying round in the fridge and generally it's pretty tasty, it is one of my husband's favourites - this had a lot to live up to therefore.

Actually we were very, VERY impressed with this lasagne. The richness of the sauce is phenomenal and for the first time ever I also made my own white sauce (a skill I will definitely be using again in the future) which also got the thumbs up. We both thoroughly enjoyed this and it definitely was better than my own versions - but the only downer for me is the points content, which is high.

This is a picture of the finished lasagne before serving, textbook apart from the cheese dribbling down the side of the dish!

I think I actually needed a slightly bigger lasagne dish for this - or even an actual lasagne dish would probably help, this is just a ceramic roaster which I normally use but which struggled with the quantities of this recipe. 

Anyway, once served this was what it looked like, it is making me want to eat it again actually looking at these images, that is testament to how nice it was:

I think that the secret to why the sauce is so good and tastes so rich is down to two elements, firstly the addition of red pesto and secondly the 3 tbsp of red wine. Neither of these are items which I generally add to my lasagne sauce but here they seemed to make a real difference and add a tasty depth to the flavour. This recipe uses passata where I would usually use chopped tomatoes and again I think I preferred this in the sauce, which seemed less dry as a result.

The white sauce was actually surprisingly easy to make and in retrospect I don't really know why I have never made this myself before as it is much nicer than the synthetic versions you can buy in jars and which I generally end up scraping off the top of my portion of lasagne anyway. Flour, butter, milk and some grated cheese turned into a silky, thick and smooth rue.

So, this ticked every box in terms of flavour, simplicity and satisfaction - but what about the points?

It is important to clarify that due to the shape of my lasagne dish and the sizes, I made this recipe into 3 portions although in the book it is down as serving 4. I only served this with a salad and no other carbs and to me this was a generous and filling portion. 

Based on this recipe serving 3, on propoints, a portion of this lasagne costs 18 points which, I am sure you will agree, is quite high. This is broken down as follows: lasagne sheets (4), quorn mince (2), pesto (2), oil (2), milk in white sauce (1), butter in white sauce (2), cheese in white sauce and on top (3) flour and red wine (2). 

Despite this being a high points scorer I actually think it is worth the splurge (and anyway, if I know I am having it again I will do some exercise to earn extra points for the day). It certainly tastes so good that even at 18 points it seems pretty good value for such a rich dish.

The pesto and red wine in the sauce clearly help with this and personally I feel like this recipe has given me new inspiration where lasagne is concerned, a dish I frequently cook has been injected with a whole new range of possibilities.

This gets a 9/10 from us, definitely one of my favourites so far from the Quorn Cookbook.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Fillets in a Creamy Pesto Sauce


This is yet another interesting idea for what to do with Quorn fillets (although the recipe says to use either fillets or pieces). I do like it in theory but to be honest I do not think this is one I will rush to make again.

The sauce that these are simmered in is ok, not remarkably tasty but quite edible. The thing that bugged me about it, I think, is that it is high fat and also simmers away quite easily. 

I found that after simmering the fillets in the sauce for the suggested 20 minutes there was literally about a tablespoon of actual sauce left which you are then supposed to stir the creme fraiche into - I had to thin the sauce back out with extra vegetable stock which I had deliberately kept to one side predicting that this would happen when I saw the quantity of the sauce to begin with.

This is the dish once finished, it does look quite appealing on the plate and the sauce goes very nicely with some mash as served here:

The sauce is quite rich, being made of red pesto, creme fraiche, stock, tomato puree and thyme. I did really like the use of fresh thyme here and you could really taste it in the finished sauce. 

Although the recipe calls for half fat creme fraiche, this is still quite a high WW point count. The recipe says this serves 2/3 and that I think, is because you get 6 quorn fillets in a pack so a moderate size serving would be 2 fillets. Because there are 2 of us and a spare one portion would be pointless, I split this between the two of us and accordingly it works out at 11 points per portion.

This is 3 for the pesto, 4 for the quorn, 2 for the creme fraiche and 2 for the oil which is needed to brown the fillets in. I guess you could cut out the oil by pre-cooking the fillets and if you split the recipe by 3 it would be 7 points per portion but not particularly generous sizes. The problem with keeping it at 11 points is that you then have to also take into account whatever you serve it with and that bumps it up.

The method here is quite good, simmering the fillets in sauce before removing them and creaming up the sauce itself to serve. I felt the whole way through cooking though that this was quite a fatty recipe and I did think the sauce tasted rich and a little bit oily (although it was quite nice). 

We gave this a 6/10, it is simple and a good idea for jazzing up fillets but not interesting or tasty enough to be one I would make again in a hurry. I may well experiment with the method though and it is useful to cook this way with fillets.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Tortilla Stack


I feel the need to put the picture of this recipe near the top of the blog today because I was so pleased with how it turned out - both in terms of the taste and the closeness to the picture in the actual cookbook, so here you go:

This recipe was a total success in our household and although it makes four portions, my husband put away not 1 but 3 during the course of the evening, he really was that impressed (mind you he does run marathons so burns off an awful lot of calories.)

The theory is so simple I do not know why I never thought of it myself. Basically you use flour tortillas here, stacked on a baking tray with layers of a bolognese style Quorn mince sauce and grated cheese. It is sort of like a cheat's lasagne because it is fantastically simple and quick to assemble.

Personally I tweaked the recipe somewhat to keep it lower in fat (and those all important WW points) but even so it was delicious and very fulfilling. The quorn mince is fried off with onion and garlic, tinned tomatoes, paprika, chilli powder and tomato puree and then some fresh coriander is strirred through right at the end. I also kept adding water to the sauce because the recipe calls for 20 minutes of simmering but the sauce is actually too dry to sustain this without adding extra fluid. This did not affect the taste though.

Once you have your mince mixture you spoon it onto the first tortilla, spread it evenly out to the sides, sprinkle with grated cheese and then add another tortilla and continue until you run out of mixture.

The recipe uses 200g of grated cheese but this is incredibly high fat and points, I used about 75g, enough for a scattering in each layer and enough to melt over the top and this was adequate. I am sure it would taste richer and more indulgent with the full 200g but for me I would rather make this dish healthier.

This is it before going in the oven:

And this is what it looked like afterwards, before I cut it into quarters:

You can see that it had gone slightly crisp around the edges but this made for a nice variance in the texture and was not a problem. I think if you used the full amount of cheese this would maybe not happen but personally I liked the crispy bits.

In terms of points, I made this as low as possible, frying off my onions and garlic in fry light spray oil and using sainsbury's Be Good To Yourself lower fat tortillas (of which I used 5), because of that the points values for my version were as follows:

9 pro-points per portion -3 for the quorn, 3 for the tortillas and 3 for the cheese. Very simple to work out because everything else is zero points for this recipe.

We gave it a 9/10 and both really enjoyed it. I served it with some oven chips and rocket leaves, as a light lunch it would be lovely just served with a salad. I will definitely be making this recipe again and will experiment with the method too as I like this easy version of producing a lasagne style dish. Another success!  

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Quorn Korma


So, recipe number 15, the first this week due to one thing and another - and its another curry! It sort of highlights how much we love curry that of the 15 recipes trialled so far, this is the third indian style dish I have opted for.

I think of the three this is actually my favourite. A stunning curry paste is blitzed in the blender first and smells absolutely amazing, this is then fried off with the quorn before cream, butter and coconut are added. The result is a creamy, aromatic delight of a dish.

This is the paste after I had blitzed it, you can see it is a pale brown colour. 

This is the most complicated bit of the recipe, once this is done it is very straightforward, simply cooking this off with the pieces in a wok, simmering for 20 minutes until reduced and then adding in the rich stuff (including the cream) for a final 5 minutes. 

This is the dish once finished:

Because of how rich the sauce is, I was worried that the points count would be high, but the amounts of butter and cream are not too bad given this recipe makes four portions. It works out as 8 pro points per portion which is broken down as follows; cream 3, butter 1, quorn 2, coconut milk 1, oil 1. Everything else in the recipe is 0 points (spices, garlic, ginger and tomato puree). 

This means that a portion of rice alongside for 6 points puts the dish at 14 points which, although half of my daily allowance, is actually pretty good for such a rich and tasty dish. It certainly feels like it should be more points than it is.

(I have not calculated the old points values as it is becoming quite a chore to do so! Apologies for this - but it makes more sense to continue with the new system which I am actually following). 

I used frozen quorn pieces and only realized as I was cooking it that the recipe calls for 350g of quorn and the frozen bags only contain 300g. I assume therefore that fresh pieces would have been the better idea because I believe they come in 350g chilled packs - this made no difference to the end result however.

So, the verdict from us was overwhelmingly positive, the husband gave it a 9/10 and its one of my favourite dishes from the recipe book so far. Although it is more complicated than some of the recipes and requires a blender (although a hand blender would be adequate), it is actually easy once the paste is made and this could be done in advance and chilled if you were in a rush.

Very tasty and fragrant, rich and creamy and a recipe which works particularly well with the quorn pieces, this is a brilliant option for a cracking curry.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Spanish Sausage Casserole


I was absolutely starving when I got home from work tonight and fancied something both warming and filling after a day freezing to death at my desk and starving due to the new diet (actually I wasn't starving just felt like I was doing without as snacks are now banned). I therefore decided that this spanish sausage casserole was exactly what was needed.

I actually really enjoyed this meal, it was pretty simple to make, despite having quite a few ingredients in it - I prepped everything else while the sausages cooked so that it was very quick and easy once I was ready to start the casserole itself. I should point out that to make the recipe more diet friendly I actually oven cooked the sausages with a few squirts of low cal spray oil instead of frying them as the recipe suggests.

I used paprika we had bought back from Budapest again and it was pretty spicy, I really do need to be more careful with that stuff because it is more potent than the paprika you buy in supermarkets here, the end result was a dish with a real kick to it. 

Although we actually prefer Cauldron sausages to Quorn ones as a rule, I actually used quorn ones in this dish and they worked pretty well. However, I do still think they are more bland than the Cauldron ones and probably, if I make this again I will see whether they work any better.

This is the dish once served, I put it with mashed potato tonight but for the other half (leftovers, currently in the fridge) I will serve it with some pasta.

As you can see, this recipe makes four very generous and filling portions. I was utterly and absolutely stuffed when I had eaten this which is probably because it is full of beans and chunky vegetables.

The best thing of all is that because the sauce is basically just veggies, tomatoes and stock, the points values are incredibly low for such a substantial dish (provided you do as I did and bake rather than fry the sausages off first). 

On propoints the casserole is 7 points (with mashed potato it makes it 11 points) with the points coming from the sausages (3), beans (2), sweetcorn (1) and oil (1). On the old plan this would strangely be quite close at 6 points (plus whatever you serve it with) based on 2 for the sausages, 2 for the beans,   1 for the sweetcorn and 1 for the oil. Either way this is fab against your daily allowance and I cannot stress enough how filling and enjoyable it is.

We both really enjoyed this meal, it is a great winter warmer which tastes spicy and full of character and is very adaptable, I served it with mash tonight but it would work equally with rice, pasta or even just with some chunky bread.

Overall we give this an 8/10, another great one to try.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Mushroom Stroganof


I was very keen to try this recipe as stroganof is one of my favourite meals. The recipe can be used with either quorn chicken style pieces or the steak strips, I used the latter because I would usually associate this dish with beef. I was very pleased with it in terms of taste and ease of recipe.

I used chestnut mushrooms and they were very suitable for this recipe, holding their shape well and soaking in the flavour. I loved the fact that this recipe uses low fat creme fraiche, to be honest, the taste was as creamy as I would expect from a full fat version so that was brilliant in terms of lowering the calorie count without compromising on taste.

This is the dish while cooking, at this stage I have just added the creme fraiche:

I was a bit worried that the creme fraiche might split and it seemed odd to stir it into the hot stock already in the pan - but it worked as you can see and only took a little stirring to evolve into the more familiar colour and texture of the final product.

I am afraid to say that I actually overseasoned this dish by making the fatal error of not tasting before adding some black pepper towards the end. This is because I used paprika we had bought back from Budapest earlier in the year and which was much stronger than I gave it credit for, this could have done without any further seasoning - so do make sure you taste before adjusting.

Despite the pepper kick being a little on the strong side, this was a very enjoyable and hearty meal. I served it with rice and it was delicious and substantial, certainly a meal I will be making again. Here it is served:

In terms of weight watchers points, on the new propoints plan this is 9 points per portion (including rice) which is very good indeed. On the old points system it is 1.5 for the quorn, 1 for the creme fraiche and 3 for the rice which makes 5.5 - all in all a great option for a low fat meal. The recipe makes 4 portions and we had it two nights in a row, the second night after being kept in the fridge once cooled, the flavours were actually even better and had developed further.

We really liked this and again it seems the steak strips are a very handy and enjoyable type of quorn to use, we give this meal an 8/10.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Tomato & Feta Ciabatta


And so we continue...

This is the first recipe from the light lunches section of the book which I have attempted. I decided to give this a whirl for a Saturday lunchtime and actually we were both pretty impressed with it.

I have to say it is quick, simple and very tasty indeed, this is a picture of the finished dish:

Because it was so easy to make it was right up my street as I am just about getting back into cooking mode following a nasty cold. This is literally a recipe where you chuck everything into one dish at different times and then tip it over the warmed and sliced bread.

I used half olive oil and half balsamic vinegar to roast off the quorn pieces, tomatoes and mushrooms as this cut the fat down and worked just as well as only the oil would have done. You then chuck in the garlic, give it another 5 minutes and finally the feta. This means although the cheese is warm and crumbly it is not melting everywhere.

It is literally impossible to eat this with your hands, I gave up and used a knife and fork. Oh - and I had no fresh basil so I substituted with dried and although the fresh would be better it was ok without.

WW points wise - well, over the last week I have received all the info to switch over to the new pro-points plan which is rather different to the old plan. Wherever I can I will give both sets of points going forward, the new points are according to their actual website calculator, the old points I will calculate manually.

On the Pro-points plan which allows (me) 29 points a day, this dish is 11 points - 6 for the 2 slices of ciabatta, 2 for the quorn and 3 for the feta. On the old plan it works out at 5 for the bread, 1 for the quorn and 1.5 for the feta so a lower score of 7.5 (against 19 for the day). Either way you can see it is a pretty balanced and reasonable score for a lunch time dish.

We both really enjoyed this, even though my husband hates tomatoes when they are still whole like this (and I am not a big fan either), it was something a bit different for a lunchtime, tasty, quick and convenient and I will no doubt make it again.

Overall we gave this a 7/10, good work quorn!

Friday, 12 November 2010

Feeling Blue

Hello all,

I haven't blogged for about a week and I feel a bit lost without it to be honest but this was not my plan. A number of things have stopped me in my tracks over the last 7 days and hence I felt I should update on where I have been and why.

Last weekend we went to Amsterdam for a city break and had an excellent time, however, I had been feeling a bit unwell before we went and while we were there developed a pretty nasty cough that prevented both of us from sleeping (is there any guilt worse than that of knowing you are robbing your partner of sleep while you splutter and suffer!?). By the time I got back late on Monday I was coughing so much I was being sick and struggling to breathe, it was really quite frightening.

Anyway, on Tuesday I went to the doctors and was diagnosed with acute viral laryngitis, given anti-biotics for the associated chest infection and told to go home and rest - both myself and my voice. I did just that and was pretty much on the brink of losing my voice completely when I got a call to say that our family dog, Jonty, whom I adored, had suddenly passed away.

This was devastating news. I had only had him for the weekend a couple of weeks before and although he was clearly getting old he seemed ok. It turned out he had a tumour in his stomach that none of us knew about until it burst and was too late. My mom was very brave indeed and stayed with him to the end, I didn't know until it was all over which was no doubt for the best, but it came as a bit of a shock.

I cried so much I lost what little of my voice I had left. It is so awful losing a much loved family pet, he truly is irreplaceable. 

Beautiful Jonty on my car seat a few weeks ago.

Anyway, because of this and my illness this week, I just have not got around to blogging. Today is the first day I have even felt capable of typing but it is fair to say that my voice is coming back to normal and the anti-biotics have kicked in. The grief will probably take a bit longer to navigate.

But fear not! The Quorn Supremacy will indeed be back up and blogging by the end of this weekend, of that I have no doubt.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Quorn Biryani


So, the second curry style dish from the Quorn recipe book - and I have to say i was a little cynical when I first saw the recipe because this is cooked in the microwave. I have nothing against microwaves for reheating, defrosting and melting things but I generally do not consider them a method of 'cooking'. Here is a link to the recipe from the Quorn website.

Anyway, I was prepared to be proven wrong and so I gave it a whirl last night when I was pushed for time as we were going out to a pub quiz. The first stage of the recipe coats the quorn pieces in tikka paste mixed with boiling water and as I know quorn marinades well, I actually did the marinade bit in the morning and left them to soak all day. 

Once I embarked on the rest of the recipe that night, it was all very quick, literally all the ingredients apart from the quorn (frozen veg, a chopped red onion, chopped apricots and a load of rice with stock and boiling water) get chucked in a microwavable bowl and cooked for 6 minutes, stirred and then the quorn is added, then another 6 minutes plus 5 minutes standing, and voila!

This is at the halfway mark just after adding the quorn pieces (note my spirtle - one of the things I have learned to love from Scottish in laws!):

I hit a slight stumbling block at the end when the biryani should have been ready - timings are only given for an 800 watt microwave, but mine is only 700 watts (ancient I know, but it works!). I had already added on a couple of minutes to each 6 minute burst of cooking, so it had actually had 16 minutes in total rather than 12, plus the 5 minutes standing. But when I removed it from the microwave the rice was clearly still raw and there was still a lot of liquid.

I put it back in for another 3 minute burst and this seemed to do the trick. I would therefore suggest for a 700 watt microwave that you put it in for 9.5 minutes twice, rather than the suggested 6. I would also add here that it does smell amazing while cooking!

I toasted my almonds for the garnish and this is it plated.

The taste of this was pretty impressive. I do think marinading the quorn had added an intensity to the flavour of the quorn itself, but the rice was delicious and fragrant and even the apricots (which I was dubious about as I hate that 70s fruit in curries vibe) really worked and gave it a lovely sweetness.

In terms of weight watchers points, this is pretty good, the quorn is 1.5 per portion, the rice is another 3, the only other points culprit is then the tikka paste and based on the amount I used this adds 1.5 per portion so a total of 6 points per portion which is darn good for such a tasty curry. It also means that you can serve it with a low fat naan for around 9 points, well worth it!

My husband loved this, despite it not being overly spicy, he thought the quorn was particularly nice and said he would give it a 7/10. I think that's a pretty fair score.

Convenient to cook (if you have the right timings), quick and easy and actually very tasty - plus very low fat. A success despite my initial doubts and one I will definitely make again.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Pesto Crusted Fillets


I tried this recipe over the weekend as a light tea, again we were pretty impressed with how it jazzed up the sometimes dull fillets. The texture of these was lovely and we really enjoyed them, they went very well with a salad but would work equally well with pasta or a more traditional accompaniment. 

My one downer on this recipe is the inescapable mess that it makes due to the difficultly of sprinkling both breadcrumbs and parmesan on top of the fillets on a baking tray, this is what mine looked like as they were about to go in the oven:

Fortunately, I took the decision to just leave the mess on the tray and sort it out later - this proved a good call as actually the breadcrumbs on the tray went lovely and crispy and mixed with the cheese were pretty tasty sprinkled over the salad and fillets once they were on the plate.

I did follow the recipe to the letter and used ciabatta breadcrumbs, as I didn't want to waste a whole loaf of ciabatta I picked up a small loose individual ciabatta roll from Sainsburys which was pretty convenient and still made more than the 40g I needed.

Astoundingly, I had never actually made breadcrumbs before (one of a number of skills I am picking up from making all these recipes!), I literally just left the ciabatta to go stale for 3 days and then dropped it in the food processor and let it do the hard work, easy, even sized breadcrumbs in less than a minute! I have frozen the majority which were excess to requirements as Nigella informs me they work perfectly well either used from frozen or defrosted first.

I must admit I was a little cautious about this recipe as neither my husband or I am massive fans of pesto flavours, however, because the pesto is not overwhelming and is literally brushed onto the fillets under the breadcrumb/cheese mix, it just lends a tasty, subtle flavour to the quorn. The basil is about the only bit of the pesto that you can taste.

We loved the way the texture of the topping was so crunchy and well combined. The recipe states you can either use italian hard cheese or normal cheddar, I used some parmesan and felt that this suited the recipe really well as it was light but full of flavour, cheddar, I think, may have gone soggy and matted over the breadcrumbs - but each to their own.

In terms of weight watchers points this is also a winner, 2 fillets equals 1.5 points but the breadcrumbs, pesto and cheese only add another 2 because it is very small portions of each, therefore the points value is only 3.5 (I also used reduced fat pesto so have been quite generous with the points really!). Served with a salad this is a great, healthy, low fat meal.

Here are my fillets once plated:

We give these fillets a 9/10 because we really enjoyed them and actually they were so quick and simple to make I know I will make them again. The spare portion we sliced up and used on lunch wraps the next day and these too were a success, a great recipe which shows how versatile boring old fillets can be.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Lemon Chilli Linguine


Cards on the table - we really did not enjoy this meal. Be warned that the overriding flavour is very much LEMON. I have no particular issue with lemon but just found it overpowering in this dish, which is also very dry. I guess there are always going to be recipes in every book which just do not float your boat. 

Strangely I notice the Quorn website feedback has been particularly positive for this recipe, maybe there are a lot of quorn loving citrus fanatics out there.

My poor husband didn't even have seconds and that says it all really. In fact he actually said this was the second worst thing I have ever cooked (in first place is an utterly monstrous vegetarian moussaka which could have been used as a weapon of mass destruction, but the less said about that the better). I did not think it deserved to be bracketed with the Moussaka of doom but I really did not like it as a dish.

To be fair, it started badly when I accidentally grated my thumb while zesting the lemon, dinner was slightly less vegetarian from that point on I am afraid. I also learnt the true pain of lemon juice in a fresh wound. The air in my kitchen went a rather electric blue.

So...the plus points for this dish (because I hate to just completely slate it) are that its pretty quick and easy to cook and in terms of weight watchers points its a very low scorer, 1.5 for the quorn, 3 for the pasta, 1 for the oil and that literally is it - a total of 5.5. 

I also think that the process of frying off the quorn pieces in the lemon juice is pretty clever and really does inject a strong flavour into them. As a starting point when cooking with pieces I will no doubt use this method again, but personally I think the dish needs another strong flavour to balance against the strength of the lemon.

This is the finished dish in my wok (which I pretty much cook everything in!):

The idea of lemon and chilli together I do quite like, but the chilli I used was not hot enough to even be detected against the lemon. Once the linguine is in the pan you really have to quickly move it round because due to the lack of sauce it will stick to the pan and burn if left alone. 

Personally I found it very odd to be eating such dry, sauceless, pasta. The idea of cooking the linguine with stock in the pan instead of water is clever, but again the stock flavour was lost to the lemon.

Some of the elements of this recipe have given me inspiration for other dishes and I am sure I will indeed use the citrus idea again but in moderation. I will not, however, be making this particular recipe again.

Sorry Quorn, but this one gets a 1/10 from us.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Teriyaki Quorn


Over the weekend I made Teriyaki Quorn pieces with some steak strips, I was not overawed by it, it has to be said but the steak pieces were quite tasty, there just wasn't enough sauce for my liking.

This is the finished product:

The marinading of the quorn pieces worked pretty well and the ginger and garlic were evident even when it had been cooked, I liked the citrus flavours from the orange and lemon juices too and the flavour was pretty distinct, it just made for quite a dry dish.

The recipe gives an option of 2 tablespoons of soy sauce or teriyaki, I used one of each and in future would probably use 2 of each to try and make it more moist. I am not a big fan of egg noodles either as they can be stodgy and dry and having spent time in Thailand and Vietnam, I prefer glass or rice noodles which are much thinner. I think I will use glass noodles if I make this dish again.

In terms of weight watchers points this is a pretty good dish, 1.5 for the Quorn, 3 for the noodles and 1.5 for the oil and sauce so only 6 for the portion. Because this recipe serves 4 I cooked the whole amounts but then removed half of the steak pieces and veg before adding the noodles for 2 portions, I then reheated the pieces with fresh noodles for a second meal on another night.

So, 5 out of 10 from the other half on this one and I think I agree with that. It is ok and if I tweak it to our tastes it will probably be better, good marinade and flavours but not for us with the egg noodles and lack of sauce.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Leek Pie With Quorn Pieces - Proper Pukka Pie



EXCITED! I got home from work today to find a letter from Quorn giving this blog the thumbs up and saying "it looks fantastic". I am over the moon to get that feedback. Rather brilliantly they have also sent me a load of money off vouchers which will certainly help with completing all the recipes.

Today just keeps on getting better - I have just passed 300 visits to the blog from across the UK, USA, Australia and Canada. I never thought it would get so much support and positive feedback so quickly so thank you everyone that has been in touch and visited the pages. 

Also, today's recipe, Leek Pie with Quorn Pieces marks one tenth of the recipes completed, so a milestone of sorts. So far all have been good to very good. Tonight's pie got a 9/10 from the other half and I have to say I would give it a 10 as it is utterly delicious.

I must admit that whilst the recipe in the book includes home made pastry, I had half a block of puff pastry in the freezer left over from making the steak pie the other week, on a week night I just don't have the time to make the pastry too so I used this ready to use block and it worked marvellously and cut half an hour off the cooking time.

The filling was simple and delicious. I had a slight problem in that the recipe calls for mustard powder. Now maybe Shropshire is just not a massive fan of it but I could not find any, anywhere. I have checked Asda in both Telford and Wolverhampton and Sainsburys in Telford, I also checked the large Co-Op in my hometown of Shifnal. None of them had mustard powder!

I therefore had to ad lib a bit and decided to substitute mustard powder for fresh wholegrain mustard which I had in the fridge. This worked really well, you can see the seeds in this picture of the filling towards the end of cooking:

The use of milk and stock with the flour seemed to work really well at producing a very tasty and wonderfully thickened sauce. By the time it came out of the oven the filling was a great, creamy consistency and for me the mustard worked perfectly with the leeks and quorn pieces. I switched the milk from semi-skimmed to skimmed and the sauce worked fine with this substitution.

Here it is cooked:

and plated:

Weight watchers points are higher for this recipe than any other so far, but then the leeks are sauteed in butter and oil for 2 points and the pastry is also an immediate 5 points. The quorn adds another 1.5 and the milk and stock another 1. This makes it 9.5 points per portion, based on the pie serving 4. 

Although it is high(ish) in points, as long as you serve with zero points veg it can still be part of a healthy meal.

Both me and the other half loved it, the sauce is delicious, the pie is substantial, filling and delicious. I will most definitely be making this again.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Red Velvet Cupcakes - No Quorn Involved!

Ok, so I know this is not from the Quorn Cookbook but hey - this is my blog and I will always bow to requests because it's really nice to be asked actually.

So, for my friend Kelly who gave birth to beautiful baby Maya last week and asked for this recipe, here it is. I found this after trialling about 4 different recipes for the same cakes, I wanted to make red velvets for a friend's wedding and set about perfecting them and this is the final version, an amalgamation of two recipes actually but it works the best.

I have since made these for birthdays, christenings and one emigration party, they are constantly in demand and always seem to be well received. They look pretty dramatic which I think is what draws people to them, here are some pictures of the wedding ones on the stand and then the ones I made with an Australian flag theme for my friend Claire who is moving to Melbourne in December.

Red velvet with vanilla buttercream and heart shaped sugar sprinkles.

Red velvet with blue coloured and normal vanilla buttercream and silver balls.

The box full of Australia Themed Cupcakes.

Now, I know these cupcakes do not particularly fit with the whole healthy eating thing - but everything in moderation I say. Just eat one instead of 3 and every so often it's really not so bad. Anyway, here is the recipe.

Makes 10 large cupcakes or 12 slightly flatter ones.

60g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g caster sugar
1 egg
20g cocoa powder
40ml red food colouring
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
120ml buttermilk
150g plain flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1½ teaspoons white vinegar

 1) Before you do anything else, put the oven on 170/325 Gas Mark 3 (I have a fan oven and put it on about 150) and line your tin with cupcake cases ready to fill.

2) Make a paste by adding the cocoa and vanilla extract to the red food colouring. I find that using a fork and whisking it together in a jug works best for me, make sure you burst all the little rocks of cocoa that you will get. Put this to one side.

3) Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth, the secret with this recipe is the amount of beating and whisking you do, your arms get a proper workout but for some reason it makes a difference.

4) Slowly add the egg, I beat it first and then tip it in in three goes, beating each time until its completely combined and smooth.

5) Now get your whisk out because you are going to need it, tip the red colouring and cocoa mixture in and whisk for about 2 minutes straight until the whole thing is a very consistent and well mixed colour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and re-whisk if necessary.

6) Put your whisk on the lowest speed possible and slowly pour in half the buttermilk, whisk in for a minute. Then add half the flour and repeat (dont sieve the flour first) repeat with the other half of the buttermilk and flour and whisk again. It should by now be looking like a very smooth and airy mixture.

7) Sprinkle the bicarb of soda across the top of the mixture covering as much area as possible. Now sprinkle the vinegar across the same area and watch it fizz! Grab your trusty whisk and go for it, whisking like a demonised whisking machine until the whole thing is smooth.

8) Now, just when you thought you were done, turn your whisk up as fast as you can bear and whisk for another two minutes.

9) Spoon into the cases so that they are about two thirds full and place in the oven. It sounds utterly mental I know, but my oven cooks them perfectly in exactly 23 minutes although the recipes say 25ish. Experiment with your oven until you know the right time for yours but base it round this.


80g butter (unsalted and room temperature)
250g icing sugar
3 teaspoons of plain/greek yoghurt or milk

The method here is something that has taken years of experimentation and trials and failures to make. I believe there is a god of buttercream and sometimes, if you have pissed them off (how, I do not know) they will make sure your buttercream WILL NOT work.

It will split. It will curdle. It WILL NOT SET. In these cases I find a glass of wine, a deep breath and (in worst case scenarios) a trip to the co-op for Better Crocker are a good solution. But Betty will never taste as good as the real deal. So be calm and try again.

But for me, this set of ingredients and this method does work and generally sets. The first secret is to use proper butter rather than stork as this is thicker and more stable at room temperature.

1) Place the butter in as big a bowl as you have (trust me on this). Tip in ALL of the icing sugar.

2) Take a fork and mash the icing sugar into the butter as much as your arm muscles can bear whilst chanting a prayer to the God of Buttercream (if you like).

3) Once the icing sugar is loosely stuck to the butter, get your whisk back out (no, I am not joking).

4) This is where you will be thankful for a big bowl. Add the yoghurt/milk and then whisk like crazy. Icing sugar will spray up the sides of the bowl but this is why you have done some preparatory mashing, most of it will not. Keep whisking and whisking and after a minute or so, just when you think all is lost, it will come together and go gorgeous and glossy and look like proper buttercream. Which it is. Unless today is not your day as per the God of Buttercream as explained above.

Just a tip, if while whisking it seems to turn to sand, worry not, this is normal and for some reason just seems to happen right before the consistency shifts into a thick creamy texture.

Ta da!

It is at this point you can tint it with colours, if it starts to look too wet and runny add more icing sugar. The dairy element seems to stabilise this version and for me, 9 times out of 10 I get perfect buttercream which will hold its shape when piped onto the top of cupcakes.

Enjoy and please let me know if you have a go at this, it is my favourite and much laboured over recipe.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Chilli Con Quorn


Just made Chilli Con Quorn and I have to say I really enjoyed it - although I did add more chilli than the recipe called for as we have quickly realised that our spice tolerance is considerably higher than the Quorn Cookbook generally accommodates (too much travelling in S.E. Asia eating chilli flakes on everything!).

So, chilli con carne is actually one of my favourite meals and NOBODY makes as good a chilli as my mom, who always cooks it if she knows I am going to be around. This, therefore was quite a test of both quorn and the cookbook as it had a lot to live up to before I had even begun.

Things I tweaked from the recipe were only minor, it called for 1/2 a teaspoon of chilli powder, I added 1 teaspoon of hot chilli flakes (bought back from Thailand - the real deal) and also seasoned it to taste with a bit more cumin than the recipe called for. I also used a yellow instead of a green pepper (purely as that was what I had in the fridge) and chucked in some mushrooms that needed using up too.

This is it as it was simmering towards the end:

I did like the fact that this recipe includes adding cornflour and water as a paste at the end, it thickened the sauce up nicely and also lightened the colour a bit so it looked pretty nice too.

In terms of weight watchers points, this is a really good deal, 1.5 for the quorn, 1 for the oil used to brown the onions and garlic and 2 for the kidney beans. Therefore a portion of this (based on it serving 4) is only 4.5 points. Ideal if you serve it with a 3 point portion of rice for a substantial and tasty meal.

To me this doesn't taste like diet food and I think a meat eater would be hard pushed to know the difference as the quorn mince soaks in the sauce in the same way as beef mince would, the texture is so close that it is not easy to see or taste much difference.

My other half gives this 6/10 (but then he hates kidney beans anyway) and I would give it a 7/10. It is tasty and filling but doesn't hit the spot quite like my mom's does. Then again its probably got less calories so that's the trade off I guess.

One other thing - I always add (raw and unsalted) cashew nuts to the rice when eating chilli as it's something that Mom does and I just totally associate it with the dish nowadays, try it! It also adds some extra and appreciated protein for veggies. 

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Toad in the Hole With Red Onion and Thyme


Oh my goodness - this is PROPER veggie comfort food heaven. I am currently so utterly stuffed I am virtually unable to move. This recipe gets a 10/10 from me because it feels absolutely indulgent, tasty and downright bloody enjoyable!


I do have a *small* admission to make regarding the sausages - I actually used Cauldron Lincolnshire because these are our favourites and personally (much as we love Quorn) I just think they are packed with more flavour and have a meatier texture. This does add more in the way of weight watchers points (Quorn sausages have 1 versus 1.5 per Cauldron counterpart) but I do think it makes a positive adjustment in this recipe which is worth it for the extra calories.

So, this recipe is pretty straightforward but it does take longer than I was expecting, 20 mins in the oven first for the sausages and red onion wedges with some olive oil drizzled over and then another 40 minutes with the batter on. The result though is beautifully soft, caramelised onions in the finished product so it is well worth it.

This is it in the oven during cooking, I was quite impressed with how it rises (despite containing plain flour?!) and turns golden:

I actually did worry that I should have used a bigger roasting tin - the book was vague about the size and just states a 'small shallow' sized one. Actually this size worked fine.

I had used frozen fresh thyme (I always freeze bunches of fresh herbs and find they work perfectly well in most dishes) in the batter and the smell from my oven was amazing while this cooked.

On removing from the oven it looked pretty impressive too:

Like a proper grown up toad in the hole! This is definitely one of those recipes where you have a picture in your head of what it should look like and then, when it comes out looking just like it you feel incredibly proud of it!

Weight watchers points here are based on this serving three (and based on how utterly stuffed I am this is more than enough - even my other half didn't want seconds!). So each portion contains 2 sausages. This means 3 points from sausages, 3 from the flour in the batter, 1 from the eggs, 1 for the oil and half a point for the milk used (I substituted the semi skimmed in the recipe for skimmed and it worked perfectly well). 

All in all that makes 8.5 points for a portion which may seem quite high, however, as I learned tonight, you really do not need to serve it with any other carbs (I did some mashed potato, totally underestimating how filling this is) and therefore if you serve with just some veg the 8.5 points is pretty good for a main meal.

Here it is served up with some gravy, mash and green beans:

You can see that even just serving a third of it with the two sausages, this is a substantial portion.

Double thumbs up from me to the Quorn people for this recipe, a tasty, easy to make and rewarding recipe which produces seriously tasty and satisfying comfort food which doesn't cost too much in terms of calories and fat.

Husband gives this an 8/10 and I would give it 10/10, overall then a 9/10 and personally my favourite recipe so far, I will definitely be making this again and would serve it to friends and family, both veggie and carnivorous. 

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Salsa & Nacho Crusted Fillets


Mmmmm. Very tasty this one! 

Usually we find fillets pretty bland and only use them chopped up in other dishes like jambalaya, but tonight I made the Salsa & Nacho Crusted Fillets and they were actually not just tasty but quite a welcome and interesting change.

This is them during cooking, before the nachos and cheese were added:

The bag of fillets contains 6 and the recipe suggests that this serves 2 or 3, personally I find quorn quite filling so I only had two, I served them with some mashed sweet potato and they went very well with this but would equally work with a salad or wedges to make them part of a more or less substantial meal.

A couple of picky things about the book so far which were particularly noticeable on this recipe relate to the missing bits of information which basically mean you have to guess, assume and just wing it really. 

For instance, on this recipe it does not clarify whether you are cooking these from frozen for this recipe or defrost first (in the back of the book it vaguely suggests that recipes work better from frozen unless there is a marinade - but the salsa here could be considered that). Also, no guidance is given on how best to crush the nachos or to what size, I went by the picture and ad libbed by putting them in a freezer bag and whacking them with a spoon. It also does not state which type of nachos to use, I chose lightly salted as they are my favourite but actually this recipe may benefit from a cheesy flavour.

Weight watchers points per portion (based on a portion being 2 fillets) are incredibly low again, the quorn equates to 1.5, the weighed out portion of cheese and nachos adds 2.5 points so provided you use a fresh salsa with no nasties in it (which is therefore zero points) overall the quorn fillets are 4 points for a portion.

When they came out the oven they smelled amazing and looked pretty good too:

The texture is really interesting and works surprisingly well with the cheese and salsa heated up, like proper nachos like you see on the TV. My other half adored them and actually ate the remaining four that I had cooked. Very tasty and certainly it jazzes up the fillets which soak in some of the salsa flavours.

I will definitely be making these again and will potentially try them with the suggested Monteray Jack cheese (I used mature cheddar today) and cheese flavoured nachos.

9/10 for this one from both of us, which was a surprise as I was not expecting to be that impressed!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Quorn Balls in Tomato Sauce


I have just cooked Quorn Balls in Tomato Sauce for our tea. I was very impressed with the flavour of the sauce, I have to say, but am a bit miffed about portion sizes....

Here is the sauce as it finished cooking:

Now I used a whole pack of the swedish style balls for this and when I counted them there was 18 in the pack, this is meant to serve 4 people....but 18 does not divide neatly into 4 for a start, I guess maybe there is meant to be an average of 20 in a bag and therefore 5 per person which would be about right. 

This sauce is very tasty although my other half thought it was a bit bland (but then he would put chilli flakes in everything given half the chance). It is a great base sauce which would be brilliant for adapting - I chucked in a handful of chestnut mushrooms, sliced up, which needed using and it worked fine.

The sweetness of the tomatoes works well with the chopped up carrots, which are not something I would generally put in this kind of sauce, they also gave it a nice and varied texture. I ad libbed with a bit of balsamic at the end where the recipe just said 'season to taste' and I think that suited the flavours well.

Weight watchers points wise this is an excellent choice, because most of the ingredients are zero points (tomatoes, carrots, herbs) the quorn balls are 1.5 and then you need to account for the small amount of oil and the stock, this makes the sauce an amazingly low 3 points per serving, added to a weighed out portion of pasta it makes for a tasty and very filling meal for around 7 points (more if you sprinkle on some parmesan).

I would definitely make this again as a base sauce but will probably always ad lib with what I have to hand, it is simple and tasty and very low fat so it gets the thumbs up from me.

6/10 from the husband, who thinks it lacks a bit of heat. I would personally give it 7/10. Much better than out of a jar containing god knows what.