Friday, 25 March 2011

Sweet Potato Curry


This thai style curry is again from the 'Little Chefs' section at the back of the cookbook - recipes designed to be easy for kids to help with. It is indeed a very simple curry recipe but it works very nicely and the sweet potato gives it a lovely flavour.

Essentially, this curry is just red thai curry paste and coconut milk with a bag of quorn pieces and 300g of sweet potato chunks in it. Very simple indeed. The fresh coriander stirred in at the end gives it an authentic flavour and works very well. We felt that the quorn was not overly strong in flavour in this recipe but the sweet potato worked very well. The recipe calls for only half a tblsp of the thai paste but we used 2 tbslp knowing our preference for spicy food. 

This recipe could benefit from the addition of some lemongrass and fresh garlic, but for a quick and simply curry it is perfectly adequate and quite enjoyable.

This is the curry served with basmati rice:

In terms of weight watchers points, this is quite a good recipe considering the coconut milk (I used a light version anyway). Based on this recipe making 4 portions, each serving is 13 points including a standard portion of rice. This is broken down as follows: rice (6), quorn (2), coconut milk (3), curry paste (2).

We quite enjoyed this and as a quick and healthy meal we would probably make it again, all be it with some tweaks to add intensity to the flavours. We gave it a 7/10.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Quorn Moussaka


This dish is my nemesis.

About 5 years ago we had an absolutely delicious roasted vegetable moussaka at a friend's for dinner. It was so good in fact that being a lovely person she allowed us to take what was left home for tea the next day. We enjoyed it immensely and it spurred me on to create a version myself (how hard could it be? right?).

What followed was a couple of years where I recreated this dish every 6 months or so and every single time (different recipes/methods) it was BAD. The veg would go soggy. It would be abominably bland. It would have the consistency of gruel. My husband began to FEAR the moussaka. I began to hate it.

About a year ago I tried again with a quorn based recipe I found online....the results led to my husband pleading with me never to ever make moussaka again. I was inclined to agree with him because on that occasion it was just downright unpleasant and neither of us finished it.

So....when I saw that there was a moussaka in this book its fair to say I freaked out a little....and this weekend just gone I finally tackled the beast!

Unfortunately, I still seem to be jinxed - this is the first recipe in the book where there are two glaring errors in the text which left me confused. I also managed to buy the wrong kind of milk (condensed instead of evaporated) which caused a panic halfway through cooking and rapid googling for a solution. But overall, as far as moussakas go in this house, this was a massive improvement.

This is the moussaka as it came out the oven, it looks pretty good (or at least I thought so):

The recipe is one of the most technically complicated in the book so far and has a pretty extensive ingredients list. This is where my first issue with the recipe arose as in the list of ingredients is a tin of puy lentils with the word (optional) in brackets. I happened to have a tin in the cupboard so intended on adding this....however, the lentils are then never referred to in the recipe text. Rather than taking a flyer on when to add them therefore, I simply left them out. This is clearly an omission of the recipe writers though.

I grilled my aubergine slices first, rather than after starting the mince mixture as is suggested in the recipe text. I wanted to be able to just get on with mixing everything else together so I simply put the aubergine to one side before ploughing on with the base sauce.

The base sauce is pretty straightforward, onion, garlic and carrots are gently fried until soft, the mince and seasonings are added along with the tomatoes and bob's your uncle. The recipe states to bring this to the boil - I found there was not enough fluid to do so and added half the tomato tin of boiled water and this did the trick. Easy enough.

Now for the sauce....

It was at this point that I realised I had bought the wrong type of milk. The tins are all the same for the carnation brand and I had therefore picked up condensed milk (which is heavily sweetened and intended for desserts) rather than evaporated. I googled and discovered this was not going to be a suitable exchange and then realised I would need to create a basic bechemel to substitute for it.

While I was doing this I spotted the 2nd error (or lack of clarity) in the recipe. Had I had the necessary evaporated milk the recipe tells me to make up the 410g tin to a litre by adding water. Ok - that's fine. Except that a little further down it states to add the 40g of cornflour to '6 tblsp of the milk'. Does it mean normal milk which is not listed in the ingredients? (which is a method used in other recipes in this book with cornflour). Or does it mean 6 tblsp of the evaporated milk and water mixture? 

Anyway, this milk confusion was, for me, beside the point as I had had to abandon the sauce mix from the book and create a bechemel from scratch. Thankfully this sauce turned out to be absolutely fine and worked well.

This is the moussaka as served:

The recipe suggests it makes 4-6 portions. I would say it is 4 portions as a main meal without accompaniment, 6 portions if you are serving with bread or a salad on the side. The portion shown above is a quarter of the entire dish.

Amazingly we actually did enjoy this dish although after years of my terrible attempts my husband was a bit jaded about it and said it is 'like lasagne but not as nice'. I sort of see what he is saying. This is a nice dish, it tastes ok (and compared to my previous attempts its a vast improvement!) but it is not so great I will make it again and neither is it particularly inspiring to me.

In terms of weight watchers points, one portion (based on the recipe serving 4) contains 13 points as follows (I have based this on the actual sauce from the recipe not the one I ended up making): quorn mince (2), evaporated milk (3), flour (2), butter (2), oil (2), cornflour (2).

We decided that for us this recipe was a 6/10. Not a high scorer from the book for us but in terms of a moussaka in this household quite an achievement. If you are a big fan of this dish then you may enjoy it more than we did. It is a pretty healthy version considering the rich sauce so do give it a go.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Cheese & Onion Quorn Burgers


This recipe comes from the 'Little Chefs' section of the book, right at the back, containing 3 recipes you can make with the kids. I can see why this one would appeal as it involves getting your hands mucky and shaping the burgers which is quite good fun (although I did it without any help from any children!).

We were really impressed with these burgers and despite the fact you can pick up pretty good quorn burgers fresh or frozen and cook them so conveniently quickly, I would consider making these again if we were having a veggie friendly barbeque. This is because they are so fab tasting and feel like a gourmet burger.

When we were in Berlin last year we visited a couple of their specialist veggie fast food shops (I so wish we had more of these in the UK), two which are worthy of a specific mention were Yellow Sunshine in trendy Kreuzberg and Vego Foodworld in Prenzlauer Berg. Both serve fantastic vegan burgers, wraps, kebabs, pizzas and all sorts of other tasty junk food (!) which can be eaten on site or taken away.....these quorn burgers reminded us of meals we ate in these places, veggie - but a little bit special!

Firstly, here is a picture of the burger mix once everything was together in one bowl and I was about to start shaping:

The burger mix is essentially quorn mince, breadcrumbs (the recipe calls for wholemeal but I used ciabatta as I had some in the freezer), softened onion and rosemary, marmite dissolved in boiling water, egg, soft cheese and grated cheddar. It makes, as you can see, a very sticky and quite wet mixture although it does take a lot of stirring to get it to this point and it is essential that the soft cheese is distributed evenly all the way through it.

The recipe states that this mix makes approximately 8 burgers of a 2cm depth each. I used a round metal cookie cutter to shape mine, pushing a handful of mix into it quite firmly so that my burgers looked like this:

The mix made 5 substantial burgers for me but obviously you could have smaller and more if you shaped them differently. I was impressed at how the mix held its shape at this stage - although you do have to be a little careful with them.

You then fry them in a little oil for around 4 minutes on each side. Make sure the pan is hot before you start as they seal very well if you do this and you lessen the risk of them falling apart (we had very little problem with this). Here is what they look like once flipped, you can see that they brown quite noticably, keep an eye on them and watch the time, the 4 mins per side seems to be bang on to me.

So, once they have had the necessary cooking time you can transfer them to your bread rolls or pittas. This is what they look like served in baps and then as I ate them (thinking of weight watchers) with half a bap each.

Verdict? Absolutely delicous and well worth the faff. The texture is pretty amazing and so much more like a meat burger than the pre-made standard veggie burgers you can buy. The cheese in them really stands out and gives these a really deep and rich flavour which is also juicy and intense. The seasoning could be easily adapted in the recipe, I added a pinch of chilli to ours and it worked really well so feel free to tinker when you cook off the onion with the herbs at the beginning of the recipe.

In terms of weight watchers points, the entire recipe works out as 22 points based on the following: quorn mince (4), oil (4), breadcrumbs (4), grated cheddar (5), low fat soft cheese (2), egg (2), marmite (1). The reason I have given you the full recipe points is that you may make more or less burgers than I did, divide the 22 by the number of burgers so that it is right for you.

My husband was determined these got a 10/10 and I have to say I am in agreement with him on this occasion. A clever, enjoyable recipe to make and a delightful end result to make a burger which could deservedly and proudly compete with meat products - but with the added benefit of containing considerably less fat!

This is definitely one I will make again and has been one of the best recipes to date from the book.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Coconut Curry with Chilli Rice


Another curry from the cookbook as we hit halfway in the project. This one has a thai feel to it and uses red curry paste as well as coconut milk to produce a very tasty curry indeed. We really liked the rice in this recipe too and having made more of an effort with it really made a difference.

This is the curry and rice cooking - you need to be able to multi-task for this recipe to be effective:

This is a close up of the rice which is cooked as per packet instructions before being added to stir fried spring onions, fresh chilli and frozen peas in olive oil:

And finally this is a picture of the rice and curry served together:

This curry uses steak strips which gives a hearty beef curry feel to the dish. The flavours are fantastic and the heat was just right for me (with 2 tablespoons of paste and a whole red chilli in the rice) although Mr O would have preferred a little more. I would say it is medium heat but do use less paste if you prefer your curry milder.

I really liked the cherry tomatoes, dessicated coconut and coriander added in right at the end, they kept their fresh flavours by adding so late in the cooking process and the sweetness of the tomatoes worked very well with the heat of the sauce.

This is a fairly simple curry, onion and garlic are softened before the paste is added, the steak strips are then stir fried into the mixture before the coconut milk is added and the whole thing is simmered. The trick is then cooking the rice alongside the curry. I ignored the recipe's instructions to start the rice once the curry is simmering and actually started it at the same time as I browned off the onion/garlic. This meant that the rice was cooked by the time the simmering stage was reached and I simply left it in the pan keeping hot until I needed it.

The rice itself was very nice, just enough bite and flavour from the spring onions, chilli and peas to make it more interesting than plain steamed rice and it worked very well to enhance the flavours in the curry.

In terms of weight watchers points, this works out at 14 propoints per portion including the rice which is pretty good. I should point out though that the recipe calls for 300g of rice for 4 people but I used 240g as I know that a 60g portion is plenty per person and accounts for 6 propoints. I also used reduced fat coconut milk to shave some further points off.

The 14 points per portion are broken down as follows: rice (6), quorn (2), coconut milk (3), dessicated coconut (1), oil (1), curry paste (1). 

This is a very satisfying and flavoursome meal which we really enjoyed, it is slightly more complex to make than other recipes within this book but well worth the effort. At 14 points per portion it is definitely one which we will be making again.

We give this a 9/10.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Ciabatta Pizza


This is the final pizza-esque recipe from the Quorn cookbook and actually it is a blinder! Simply, tasty and very filling, this makes use of ciabatta as the base and contains quorn sausages in the topping. Mr O made this for our tea the other night after I had had a particularly long and tiring day and it was just the ticket.

Basically you slice a whole ciabatta loaf in half and then split each half in two so that you have four half depth slabs of bread to act as your bases. Each one is then spread with bruscetta topping (ready made as per the recipe - I picked mine up from Asda where it is kept with the ketchup, olives and condiments) and pre-cooked and sliced sausages and chopped black olives are scattered across the top. This is then topped with some grated mozzarella cheese and baked for around 15 minutes.

This is what the end result looks like:

The taste is very nice indeed and it works well with the olives and the sausages, both quite distinct flavours. The bruscetta topping is also very nice although it does feel like a bit of a cheat. I would normally make tomato sauce for pizzas. However - this bruscetta topping has quite an intense sun dried tomato flavour and it works well with this particular pizza. All the flavours here are strong and I think that is why I really enjoyed it.

I think it could work with less cheese and that would cut down on the calories / weight watchers points. But it is lovely with the full amount of mozzarella on it. Unfortunately this recipe is always going to be much nicer without tweaking and that makes it quite a high value recipe in terms of points - definitely worth it as a treat though.

Based on the recipe serving 4 the point value per serving is 11 which works out as follows: ciabatta (5), sausages (2), mozarella (3), bruscetta topping (1). If you serve it as 4 portions then you ideally need to put something with the pizza as it is not very big. I was absolutely ravenous when we ate ours and I am ashamed to say I therefore ate 2 of these size portions and blew a whole 22 points of my daily allowance on it (thank goodness for the weekly extra pot).

I really did enjoy this recipe though and I felt it was worth the amount of points allocated to it. We will definitely make this again. It is also worth noting that this recipe sits in the 'snacks for sharing' section of the book and the recipe suggests that you cut it into small finger portions for parties - it would work exceptionally well if you did this. A very versatile recipe.

We give this lovely pizza dish a 9/10.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Steak Wraps


This recipe is from the 'snacks for sharing' section of the quorn cookbook and I made it for our lunch over the weekend. It was actually a very enjoyable lunch and a serving of two wraps is substantial and a good portion.

This is a photo of one wrap 'undone' and one wrapped. I cannot fathom how they make the ones in the book stick with the seal on the top but I can't do it so this is the best way I can show them:

The method is pretty simple; each wrap is spread with onion relish and some fresh rocket leaves then the stir fried steak strips and mushrooms are mixed with roasted peppers, chopped up olives and sun blush tomatoes and spread between the wraps which are then folded up ready to eat.

The onion relish adds a lovely sweetness to the filling and I liked the roasted peppers and sun blush tomatoes too. The filling is very flavoursome and not over heavy on the steak strips either. Only 150g is needed for 6 wraps, it is plenty however, given the amount of other elements within the fillings.

On a health basis, these are not ideal but then it could be worse. Each portion of 2 wraps is 10 propoints worked out as follows: wraps (6), steak strips (1), onion relish (1), sun blush tomatoes (1), oil (1). You will notice that most of the points are from the wraps, I used a smaller version from asda (not the large deli wraps) and this was the lowest pointed wraps I could locate. The larger ones are 4 points each.

This is therefore a substantial chunk of points for a lunch but it is very enjoyable and is a recipe I am likely to make (or roughly follow) again in the future. I have never tried an onion based relish before and that was definitely a plus point.

Overall we gave this recipe 7/10.