Saturday, 26 February 2011

Roasted Pepper, Sausage & Rocket Salad


This recipe comes from the salads section of the Quorn cookbook and is the first one I have attempted. As it contains pasta and quorn sausages I figured it would be substantial enough to have as a main meal. The recipe suggests it served 2-3 but I simply split it into two good portions for our tea and personally I was satisfied with it as a full meal.

In any event this is a salad designed to be served warm rather than cold and I have to say we did enjoy it very much, it is something quite different with Quorn and in the summer this would be a delightful midweek supper.

This is the salad as served, I think it looks pretty nice:

The method is, in theory, very simple. You simply toss together the cooked pasta, cooked and sliced sausages, sliced grilled peppers, pesto and rocket and there you have it. In practice, I had a nightmare with the peppers and although I will definitely make this salad again I will definitely roast the peppers rather than grilling them although this will undoubtedly take more time.

The problem I had with an electric grill was that it was difficult to gauge the point between the peppers appearing not to be cooked at all and then suddenly being completely black. Also they need constant turning and it's all a bit labour intensive. I also found the skins were a nightmare to remove although I know when I have roasted them previously the skins come off in large pieces, not the bitty small sections that happened here. 

The sweetness of the roasted peppers is a big part of the flavours and is very tasty - so you do need to do this bit, but for me I will definitely ignore the recipe and roast then blanche in cold water next time.

Overall this is a very tasty salad, you get a lovely balancing from the sweet peppers, tangy pesto, vivid rocket and the herby sausages (I used the lincolnshire ones). I did not use the recommended 4 tblsp of red pesto as I felt this was too much and it added a lot to the points/fat content. I used 2 tblsp instead and it was fine.

In terms of weight watchers points this was more than I was expecting (probably because of the word 'salad' being in the title). Serving 2 each portion contains 10 points which is split as follows: pasta (5), sausages (5). This is based on 6 sausages being sliced up so around 3 each and I got around using oil to brush on the peppers by spraying them with fry light instead (which is zero points) which worked perfectly well.

A pretty healthy and very enjoyable meal here then, the flavours work well and it is very tasty. I think my husband was left a bit hungry but then he exercises a lot so needs more calories than I do, as a light main meal this was perfectly sufficient for me.

We give this salad an 8/10.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Moroccan Quorn Tagine


This week I have trialled quite possibly my favourite recipe EVER from Quorn. It was for a Moroccan Tagine and my goodness me it was tasty.

This is the tagine while it was cooking:

And here it is served on a bed of cous cous:

In order to make this recipe I did have to go out and hunt down some Harissa paste which I have never used before. Thankfully my local Sainsbury's stock it and a small jar is only 99p. The recipe actually calls for 'Rose Harissa' which you can buy online and is a specialist version but I think the standard version more than sufficed in what was a spectacularly tasty meal for us.

Harissa is a chilli based paste but this recipe is not overly spicy, the base sauce is chopped tomatoes, red onion and garlic, peppers and cherry tomatoes are added along with cumin and the harissa - to which quorn pieces are added at an early stage to soak in lots of flavour. 

The sauce is then thinned out with vegetable stock and allowed to simmer for around half an hour, the result is a spicy, tangy, sweet sauce with a thick consistency that is bulked out by chick peas and absolutely bursting with flavour. Coriander is stirred in late in the cooking process, before serving, and this again enhances the flavours and is very distinctive. 

This recipe makes 4 good sized portions and we ate the second lot on the following night - 24 hours maturing in the fridge actually improved and enhanced the flavours even more. Served with cous cous this is an incredibly filling and enjoyable meal. A bonus is that it is also very low in fat/weight watchers points.

One portion of this tagine works out at only 8 propoints broken down as follows: quorn (2), chick peas (3), oil (2), apricots (1). With a standard portion of cous cous for another 2 points this equates to a very filling meal for an amazing value of 10 points.

I will most definitely be making this again and am very pleased to have been introduced to Harissa as such a fab ingredient. We enjoyed this very much and I would be inclined to give it a 10/10 - the husband thinks it is very good but not quite worthy of that accolade so overall we have agreed on a 9/10.

Absolutely delicious!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Spicy Mexican Pizza


The final of the 3 pizzas featured in the Quorn cookbook graced our table on Sunday night and in keeping with what is fast becoming tradition in our house, Mr O did the cooking.

For me, this is definitely my favourite of the three pizzas by far. It tasted less greasy and heavy and the flavours were really distinctive and enjoyable. This is what the pizza looked like - I also think it is the most aesthetically pleasing of the three:

The method for this one is in keeping with a traditional pizza (and in contrast to the Bolognese version from the book). The sauce is applied cold to the base and cooked on top of the pizza. I really was impressed with the sauce here though which was the tastiest by far; chopped tomatoes, tomatoe puree, garlic and - the sepecial ingredient - coriander, are mixed together before being spread on the base. Monteray Jack cheese is used instead of mozzarella and green peppers, quorn fajita pieces and sweetcorn are scattered across the top.

Mr O tweaked it by adding some chilli flakes to the sauce as he knows we like a bit of spice in our food and it worked really well. The recipe actually makes two smaller pizzas rather than one big one although a portion size is based on half a pizza still so makes for a much smaller portions. I actually ate about 2/3 of this pizza before I was full but I have based the points values on the portion sizes as if you served it with a side salad it would be a perfectly adequate meal.

So, why was this my favourite? I think because it had more chunky veg on it than the others did, it is much more like a pizza I would choose to buy or order and lighter on the cheese. But the coriander is a star player for me - you can really taste it through the sauce and it adds a really interesting flavour which cuts through the others. I love coriander so for me it was the icing on the cake. This is definitely one I will be making again.

This was also the first time I had bought or used the Quorn Fajita Strips and as a product these will definitely be appearing on my shopping list again, the fact they are ready seasoned is very convenient and it was the flavouring of these which added to the overall effect on this pizza. They are spicy but not overly so.

Points wise, each portion (1/2 pizza) is 9 points based on the following: base (6), quorn (1), cheese (2). Still heavy if you do in fact eat more than half the pizza but not too bad for such an enjoyable meal. Well worth the points spend in my opinion.

We gave this a 9/10.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Quorn Steak Supper in a Flash


Last night I made Quorn Steak Supper in a Flash from the cookbook. I actually really liked it but the making of it was hardly as quick, simple and effective as I hoped and the recipe in the book did not overly help either. 

Firstly, the recipe does not state defrosted or frozen for the steak strips in this recipe but as it usually points you to the defrost instructions if it intends you to cook them from defrosted, I assumed it was from frozen. Having used the strips from frozen I am now convinced that this recipe means for you to use them from defrosted as it would surely work so much better. This is why.

The first thing you do here is create a seasoned flour by mixing flour, paprika, salt and pepper to taste. You then shake the seasoning and strips in a bowl together until they are 'coated'. With frozen pieces/strips they don't really get coated. Sure, some of the flower sticks to them but more of it stays in a massive pile at the bottom of the bowl. If they were defrosted this would work ten times better.

The knock on effect of this is that when you then add the strips/flour to the oil in the pan there is still so much loose flour that it simply soaks up all the oil in claggy lumps and is not particularly conducive to frying off the strips (and then browning the onions and potatoes) at all.

Anyway, I did manage to negotiate this but it took more time than I was expecting. And my second niggle is also to do with the time. This recipe being called 'in a flash' implies it is very quick to make - but then when you look at the ingredients it calls for already cooked new potatoes - so really you also have to add in the cooking time for them. I cheated and zapped mine in the microwave but that still added 11 minutes cooking time to the recipe. It is not as speedy as you think!

Here is the steak supper as it came towards the end of cooking:

And here it is plated:

I have to say it is very tasty and is definitely something I will make again. I wrongly decided to add half a chilli to mine to ensure it wasn't bland (as I am fast realising my palate is more accustomed to spicy things than some of the quorn recipes allow for) but actually this recipe did not need it. The balance of the paprika and garlic gave it a strong enough flavour on its own.

The other bonus of this recipe is the points values, each portion (based on the recipe serving 4) equates to 5 propoints broken down as follows: quorn steak strips (1), oil (1), flour (1), potatoes (1), stock (1). This is amazingly low and makes it a great choice if served with a low point side, I chose to use sweet potato chips for another 5 points.

We gave this recipe an 8 out of 10 and I did really enjoy it. Next time I will definitely use defrosted strips though and allow extra time to cook the potatoes. 

Coming up over the next week will be the final pizza from the book (spicy mexican), Moroccan Tagine and a sausage and pasta salad. Hope you all have a really good weekend.  

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Quorn Bolognese Pizza


The second pizza we have trialled from the Quorn cookbook and Mr O took the reins again on this one (I think he secretly likes cooking from time to time, he used to work as a chef in his local pub in the holidays). 

So, this recipe is much more complicated than the quorn balls pizza and requires a bolognese sauce to be made first in a pan then spread across the base before adding the cheese. In the interests of this blog I insisted Mr O followed the recipe (much to his annoyance) and I watched him make it.

I have to say I think I prefer the quorn balls pizza in terms of flavour - but the method here could certainly be adapted to improve on this.

Here is the pizza when cooked:

You will notice that the sauce looks almost burnt here - but it isn't, in effect the sauce gets cooked twice and takes on a dark hue, but it certainly does not taste burnt.

The bolognese sauce is a fairly standard combination of onions, garlic, quorn mince, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, vegetable stock and seasoning. The recipe calls for both mozzarella and cheddar on the top which unfortunately bulks out the fat content.

Points wise this is even higher for half a pizza than the quorn balls version, this is 18 propoints per portion made up as follows: base (7), quorn mince (2), oil (1), mozzarella (5), cheddar (3). This is a pretty high point count even though I used a lower fat version of the mozzarella. I would suggest this does not actually need both types of cheese and could work with smaller pizza bases to decrease the portion size.

Overall, this was quite enjoyable but I think I preferred the quorn balls pizza. I would give this a 7/10, I would add a bit of spice to the bolognese sauce if we made it again but it is a good way of making an interesting meal with quorn mince.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Quorn Blue Cheese Mushrooms


I made this recipe for our lunch yesterday and was not entirely convinced it was my kind of meal as I am not a fan of blue cheese at all. I had bought Dolcelatte as the wrapper promised that it was 'mild' and I could not have faced using stilton or shropshire blue. I have to say I think I did right because it was still slightly too intense for me but I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

Basically the premise here is simply to cook off some chicken or steak style quorn pieces (I used chicken style), put them onto some upturned large flat mushrooms (I used portobellos as they are lovely and meaty in texture) then crumble over the cheese and some breadcrumbs and bake in the oven for about 8 minutes.

It does have some major plus points because it is one of those magic recipes which is incredibly quick and simple but looks pretty impressive and fancy on the plate, like this:

I think this dish would make an ideal starter for a nice meal, I served it on a bed of rocket as was suggested in the recipe and it was lovely as a light lunch dish.

I was surprised how much I did like it (although I am certain I would not have felt the same if I had used a stronger blue cheese). I am still not overly keen on the distinctive blue cheese flavour but it does work with the quorn and the mushroom.

Points wise this is not too bad. It works out at 7 propoints per portion, broken down as follows, quorn (2), blue cheese (3), oil (1), breadcrumbs (1).

Something a bit different here and my husband really liked it, we give it an 8 out of 10.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Quorn Spaghetti Bolognese


Hello people, hope you have all had a good week. Just as a heads up, planned recipes coming up over the next week or so include the bolognese pizza, blue cheese mushrooms and steak supper in a flash. I have just ordered my groceries online for next week and so for once have been organised enough to decide ahead of time which ones to attempt and make sure I have everything in!

On to Spaghetti Bolognese - again, as with the cottage pie, this is a meal I frequently make but not to this specific recipe. To be honest I do not actually have a 'formal' recipe for spaghetti bolognese I just ad lib it with whatever is to hand and my husband loves it. The recipe for this was interesting because it seemed an unusual method of cooking off the sauce before adding the quorn.

Basically the base sauce is as you would expect, carrot, onion and celery softened with garlic, tinned tomatoes, puree and a splash of red wine plus some stock and herbs. Oh and unusually a tablespoon of tomato ketchup as well. The sauce actually smelled amazing while cooking and then once it has simmered for a while you bung in the quorn mince at the end (I used frozen).

The texture of the sauce was exactly as you might expect and tasted good while I was cooking and testing the seasoning. I followed the recipe's suggestion of cooking the pasta once the mince had been added and the timings worked well.

Here is a picture of the served dish:

So, what did it taste like? Well, I have to say we were both a bit disappointed that the flavour was no where near as exciting or vivid as we were expecting. It was *nice* but just not anything more than that. I almost felt like I must have screwed up the seasoning but I think it has more to do with the fact that I generally always add a pinch of chilli flakes to my own version and had not done so here. I could not really taste the red wine either and if I made it again I might increase that from 100ml to 150ml to see if it made a difference.

I would not go so far as to say this was bland, it was perfectly edible but just did not particularly inspire me. My favourite thing about this is the method of cooking which I will adapt in to my own recipe for the future.

Points wise, each portion of this has 12 propoints which includes allowing for a 60g portion of pasta and half a tablespoon of grated parmesan. This is therefore a pretty good deal in terms of points. They are broken down fully as follows: pasta (6), quorn mince (2), oil (2), red wine (1) and grated parmesan (1).

We gave this a 6/10, it is nice enough but we prefer my version - although the method of cooking is interesting and gives me a new way to try. If I made it again I think I would tinker with the seasoning and quantities in this one, but if you like your food less spicy then this may well be ideal for you.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Quorn Cottage Pie


So here we are, one third of the way through the Quorn Cookbook. I have to say I am really enjoying this project and finding that it is teaching me new and interesting ways of cooking with Quorn; this is not to say that every recipe is amazing but every recipe certainly seems to be providing new creative ideas. And some of the recipes are absolutely brilliant and will no doubt become regular features in our lives.

I was interested in this cottage pie recipe  because I already make my own version of this dish which we really enjoy. The main differences between my version and this recipe are that I tend to use half sweet potato mash (instead of half parsnip) and I do not add soy sauce to the mix. Other than this it is basically quite similar.

We really enjoyed this, although I was keener on the parsnip mash than my husband who says he prefers my version (looking for brownie points maybe!?). This is what it looks like when served:

You will see I have added sweetcorn to mine. This was for two reasons, firstly the recipe says 100g of frozen peas or other frozen veg so I decided to do half and half because I like sweetcorn. Secondly, the recipe asks for 350g of mince but I only had the frozen 300g portion, I therefore chucked in an extra handful of sweetcorn to make up for this shortfall.

I have to say it makes four portions but they are not the biggest. I would generally eat cottage pie on its own although this recipe suggests you serve it with fresh veg. I can see why it might benefit from a side portion of veg because the portions are not exactly generous. My husband was still hungry after finishing his.

It is great on the points front though, only 9 points per portion, split as follows: quorn mince (2), oil (1), sweetcorn (1), frozen peas (1), mashed potato and parsnip (4). Pretty healthy and yet enjoyable, this does not feel like a low fat recipe and does not taste like it either (in my opinion). This is pretty much a classic where the use of quorn mince works very well.

I like the addition of soy sauce to the cottage pie and felt that it gave it a bit more 'zing', because of the use of stock granules and soy sauce in the recipe I did not add further salt when seasoning and it did not require it either.

We liked this recipe and I would give it an 8/10, I would, in future serve it with some veg on the side though to make sure it provides a filling meal.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Pizza with Quorn Italian Balls


Good evening Quorn fans! Tonight marked a complete change from the normal routine as my husband insisted on cooking the next recipe - Pizza with Quorn Italian Balls.

He had inferred that he intended on doing so when I mentioned this was one of the next recipes I fancied trying. I had duly bought all the ingredients in the weekly shop and low and behold, tonight he actually followed the recipe and narrated through it so I could still blog about it for you all. It is safe to say that our first quorn pizza has indeed been a success!

One of the great things about this recipe is that it is quick and easy. I have never attempted to put quorn on a pizza before, although we do frequently create our own at home. I think it has just never occurred to me. But we will definitely be doing this again. This is what the finished pizza looked like, quite impressive I think you will agree:

I bought a fresh stonebaked pizza base from the pizza counter in my local Asda and it was just right for this recipe. I tweaked it a little by buying low fat mozzarella to cut the points down but other than that Mr O followed the recipe, spreading the base with tomato pizza topper, quartering the microwaved quorn balls and scattering along with the combined mozzarella and grated cheddar, adding a dash of oregano and shoving in the oven for 15 minutes, eh voila!

Taste wise it was indeed very enjoyable, the quorn balls work surprisingly well in the topping (I used Swedish rather than Italian as that was the only choice in my local supermarket). 

Points wise this is a bit of a big hitter, even with the lower fat mozzarella. Half of a pizza with a large base is 16 points broken down as follows: base (7), mozzarella (3), tomato sauce (2), quorn balls (2) grated cheddar (2).

This is therefore a meal you would need to factor into your daily points or save/earn some extra for. But it is tasty and feels quite indulgent, you could even omit the cheddar and I reckon it would still be pretty good.

Lovely for me to have a night off from the cooking too, I give this an 8/10. Husband gives it a 9/10 but I think he might be just a tiny bit biased.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Steak Strips with Creamy Mustard Pasta


First of all I will point you to this page on the Quorn website where the full recipe details for this are.

This is a pasta dish using Quorn steak strips (which I do think are one of the best quorn products available). Unfortunately, I am not particularly enamoured with this recipe and I think (much like with the Lemon Chilli Linguine) that part of the reason is that it uses lemon in a savoury dish again and I am just not that keen on it.

Basically, the steak strips are fried off with onion, garlic and then the green beans and sweetcorn are added. The pasta is cooked alongside this so it is a fairly speedy dish to make. The 'sauce' as it were is a combination of creme fraiche (I used half fat), wholegrain mustard and lemon zest.

This is what the dish looks like when served:

You can probably tell from this photo that the dish is fairly dry (another similarity with the Lemon Chilli Linguine). But the flavours are quite strong. Unfortunately I found them a bit overwhelming and not in a particularly good way.

The recipe advises 1-2tbsp of mustard should be stirred into the creme fraiche, I generally quite like wholegrain mustard to I bunged in 2tbsp. Mistake. It was simply too strong. If I ever did make it again I would definitely err on the side of caution.

The lemon zest shines through as another very vivid element. I think I just do not really like lemon flavouring in anything other than cakes, puddings and pancakes. My husband likes it even less and proclaimed that he scored this dish 3/10. I was not that harsh, I give it a 4/10.

Points wise this is a fairly good bet. Based on the recipe serving 4, each portion contains 8 propoints, made up as follows: quorn steak (2), pasta (4), half fat creme fraiche (1), oil (1).

This is a nice simple recipe and the premise is good - I like the idea of using the creme fraiche as a base for a creamy sauce but for me the overwhelming lemon flavour stopped it from being particularly enjoyable. Oh well, you can't like them all!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Quorn Fillets Provencale


I tried this recipe midweek and have to say I quite liked it although the premise is very simple. Yet again it reinforced my newfound abilities with fillets and I do think the Quorn Cookbook has been particularly strong with this particular product, I wish I had been more imaginative with them long ago!

This is quite a basic dish really but the seasoning works well. I had never used Herbes de Provence before but duly purchased a jar for this recipe. The quorn fillets are then rubbed in a mixture of the herbs and oil and left to marinade until needed. The rest of the recipe is basically a pepper ratatouille which is virtually free on weight watchers apart from the oil. 

This is what it looks like at the end when the fillets (which have been browned off in a separate pan) are added to the cooked veg and allowed to simmer for a couple of minutes:

You can see the herbs have stayed attached to the fillets and this is because they have been cooked separately. I quite liked the flavour of this seasoning which is heavily thyme and rosemary based to my nose.

The colours of this dish are bright and appealing and it looks quite mouthwatering on the plate, this is it when served (I chose to serve it with crusty bread as per the recipe suggestion):

The recipe makes 3 portions at 2 fillets and plenty of veg each. Based on 3 portions the points are quite low at 6, made up of only two elements - the oil (4) and the fillets (2). There is a lot of oil in this recipe because the herbs are mixed with it to use as a marinade and then both pans (for the veg and browning the fillets) require an extra tablespoon.

Although it is a lot of oil to use, it is still a low point recipe and so I did not attempt to slice anymore off it. You could, I suppose, use fry light for the veg and browning if needs be. 

Healthy and very tasty, full of great flavour and very simple to make, this is a dish I will be repeating. It is not fantastically exciting but it is enjoyable and satisfying and yet again does something interesting with quorn fillets.

We gave it a 7/10.