Monday, 11 April 2011

Sweet Potato Loaf



This is most definitely not one of my favourites from the book. In fact, what happened with this recipe was me going hungry because I could not face eating more than half of my portion for tea and then the other half of the loaf getting ditched because neither of us wanted to contemplate it again.

Also, this is a rather complicated recipe in relation to the others in the book, there are a lot of ingredients in it and a lot of 'faff'. Like pre-soaking the bulgur wheat and grating the sweet potato/carrot/onion. 

I thought that once mixed it actually looked and smelled like it was going to be very tasty. This is what it looked like once cooked (I had intended to take a picture of it before I put the mix in the tin but I forgot):

In theory it should be very nice, containing the aforementioned grated veg, oats, bulgur wheat, quorn mince (a minimal amount) and bound together with egg and yeast extract. In reality it is not (in our opinion) particularly enjoyable on any level. In fact it reminded me of my first foray into vegetarianism in the early 90s when all nut roasts looked and tasted like this - dry, bland and uninspiring.

It also takes a LONG time to cook. 45 minutes in the oven had my husband crying out for food after he had run home from work, unfortunately thanks to all the faff involved it took about an hour and a half from start to finish. 

The final instruction was to let it stand in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out and serving but I was beyond patience by and left it for about a minute. Perhaps that is why mine crumbled when I tried to carve it into slices, as illustrated in the below picture of the dish served:

It looks like a pile of veggie stuffing and to be honest that's exactly what it tastes like.

I just did not like or enjoy any aspect of this meal and I won't be making it again. I guess every cookbook is going to have some recipes which just do not appeal and for us this is definitely one of them. 

I do think if you increased the volume of quorn mince, added some chopped dried fruit and maybe used cous cous instead of the (very bloating) bulgur wheat this might be more appealing - but I am still not sure I would want to eat a whole quarter as a portion.

In terms of weight watchers points this is pretty low at 6 points a portion based on the loaf containing 4 portions. This is made up as follows: quorn (1), egg (1), wheat (1), oats (1), oil (1), sweet potato (1).

Despite the low rating and health appeal I do not think I will enforce this on my husband or myself again! We gave it a 1/10 which may seem harsh but reflects how little we enjoyed it.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Quorn & Gnocchi Bake


This recipe was another pleasant surprise - one which we were not particularly relishing the prospect of trying but which turned out to actually be very nice. I do quite like gnocchi although it can be stodgy and I have had very good and very bad variations in the past. As this again involved a creamy cheese sauce I was also concerned about the calorie content, but it turned out lower in points values than I was expecting.

The quorn in this recipe is fairly minimal and for the first time seems to be more of an additional ingredient than the star of the dish. You can use either bacon or ham (as in the carbonara) and I chose to use ham here, cut into long strips. The sauce is a basic roux/bechamel base which you tip over the cooked gnocchi and wilted spinach before baking for around 25 minutes.

This is what it looked like when I put it in the oven:

And here it is once cooked:

I was a little worried that I ended up making the recipe with large gnocchi, about the size of a quails egg each, rather than with the smaller ones I had intended to. The recipe does not specify either way, just stating 400-500g in weight, but I felt that the smaller version would have worked best. As it happened my online grocery shop substituted the ones I had ordered for these giant ones but actually it worked very well. 

I used stork to make the roux sauce (butter, flour, milk and cheese) as I had no butter in, this meant that it actually came in at slightly lower points values but the sauce worked perfectly well with this substitution so I would do this again next time to save points.

This recipe is very filling and although this served portion may look small it is actually a substantial amount:

One great tip from this recipe was to drain the gnocchi through the spinach (in a colander) thereby wilting the spinach quickly and effectively ready to whack it in the baking dish. I will definitely use that tip again, I am all for minimising washing up!

In terms of weight watchers points, based on the recipe providing 4 portions (which it does), each portion is worth 11 points as follows: gnocchi (6), cheese (2), flour (1), quorn ham (1), butter (1). This is surprisingly low in points for a main meal like this and tastes like it should be more - always a good sign!

We really liked this recipe and I will make it again, I will probably try it with smaller gnocchi to see how it compares. We gave this a 7/10.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Quorn Carbonara


And so, this classic pasta dish has never been one of my favourites, nor one of my husbands. For some reason creamy pasta sauces are not really too appealing to me and I also tend to avoid them because of the fat content, but in the name of this experiment I this week decided the time was nigh to confront the carbonara.

The quorn in this recipe can be either ham or bacon cut into strips. I chose to use the bacon and it was the first time I had used this particular quorn product, I have to say we were mighty impressed with it and it managed to eradicate a very bad memory from years ago of the last time we tried any kind of veggie bacon (think pink cardboard). It stays a nice texture even when fried off and tastes of a lovely smoky bacon flavour - it worked really well in this dish.

I have to say the pair of us were very pleasantly surprised by this pasta dish and enjoyed it way more than we were expecting to. I loved the fact that this is a very quick dish to create and from start to finish it took me around the predicted 20 minutes. I opted to use low fat creme fraiche and that also cut the fat - it came out lower in points than I was expecting too - so all round a success!

This is the carbonara in the pan as I was stirring through the sauce at the end:

And this is the dish served:

You can see that I used tagliatelle rather than the suggested spaghetti, this was simply because I had a packet of fresh tagliatelle in the fridge but I think it works well with this creamy sauce as there is more surface area for it to stick to.

The recipe is simple although I did not follow the suggested timings due to using fresh rather than dried pasta. Firstly you saute off the bacon/ham strips until they are slightly coloured (I did this using low fat oil spray to avoid extra points while boiling water for the pasta), then you make the sauce by combining the creme fraiche, grated hard cheese (I used grana padano), eggs, nutmeg and some black pepper. Once the pasta is cooked you simply drain it, put it back in the hot pan and stir through both the bacon and the sauce. 

The heat of the pan and the pasta cooks the raw egg in the sauce so you do not need to worry about this, it leaves you with a silky, creamy sauce and with the quorn bacon it really does capture the classic carbonara flavours.

In terms of weight watchers points, each portion is worth only 13 points which is pretty low considering the style of dish and the creamy sauce. This is broken down as follows: pasta (6), creme fraiche (2), quorn (2), cheese (2), egg (1).

We gave this dish 7/10 which is higher than I was expecting it to score, I will likely make it again aswell because it was actually very tasty and lower in points than I thought. Nice one quorn!