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.