Monday, 23 January 2012

Hearty Bean and Pasta Soup


This is the first soup I have attempted from the Quorn cookbook. It's pretty easy to make but the recipe is not on the Quorn website as yet so I will talk through it in more detail than normal.

The method is the usual one for any soup base, a chopped onion is sweated until soft and then 2 cloves of crushed garlic are added, next 3 tblsp of tomato puree along with a teaspoon each of dried thyme and marjoram and a tbslp of fresh chopped rosemary are added.

Next the wet stuff goes in, a tin of chopped tomatoes, a tin of canellini beans and 1.5litres of veg stock. Give it a good stir, season to taste and bring it to boiling point then turn down the heat and add the quorn pieces (175g) and simmer for 12 minutes (I chucked them in frozen). Lastly add the pasta shells (100g) and simmer for a further 12-14 minutes until the pasta is cooked.

What you end up with is a very hearty and thick stew like soup. The step I have missed out above is that is asks you to remove half of the soup before you add the quorn pieces and blend it until smooth and then add it back to the pan. This seemed like way too much hassle to me so I used a stick blender in the pan itself and just blitzed away until I judged that about half was liquidized.

This is what it looked like during the simmering:

And here it is served:

It was actually very tasty indeed and so thick and substantial that it felt more like a filling meal than a soup usually would. This was a nice way to use the pieces and I would probably use this as a base recipe for creating other soups with whatever I have in the fridge.

In terms of pro-points, if you base this on 4 substantial portions each one works out at 6 - this is broken down as follows: quorn (1), pasta (2), beans (2), oil (1). This is high for a soup but considering how filling this is it makes sense. I do think it is worth 6 points as it leaves you feeling very full!

We would give this a 7 out of 10, it's not the most exciting of recipes but it is easy to make and very tasty. Great on a cold winters day.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Quorn Ceasar Salad


I should probably start by saying that I am, in general, not really a fan of salad per se. I have, therefore, pretty much left the salad section to do last and therefore unfortunately I am now faced with the 'salad days' of this experiment....

So, this weekend I attempted the Ceasar Salad - a salad which I am fairly familiar with as I have had it previously in restaurants. My knowledge of it was only that it is a creamy cheese flavoured dressing and that it contains raw egg. I am not overly fond of it but needs must so off we set...

For a start I tweaked the cheese content because 100g of grated parmesan is just EXCEPTIONALLY high. I actually used 75g of cheese of which 25g was my precious (bought back from Lucca) parmesan and 50g was finely grated cheddar, I figured the stronger flavour of the cheddar would make up for the smaller quantity of cheese and I was right, the cheese taste was definitely the strongest.

The dressing is made by blitzing the cheese, egg yolk, clove of garlic, white wine vinegar and lemon juice and then adding the olive oil with the blender still switched on until smooth. The recipe suggests 200ml of olive oil but again I ignored this measurement and just used enough until it was the consistency I wanted (about 125ml).

You end up with a stunningly pretty buttercream yellow dressing which smells quite strongly of the cheese and lemon. To my mind it did indeed smell like a ceasar salad as I remember it.

Effectively you then just toss the fried off quorn pieces with some lettuce leaves and the dressing and top with ciabatta croutons. Simple.

This is the salad as served - you can see I burnt my croutons by trying to do too many things at once....

So, in terms of propoints, this is the points for the version I made with less cheese and oil. Based on using a quarter of the dressing per portion this is a calorie laden nightmare of 14 PROPOINTS!!!! FOR A SALAD!!!!

Yes, I had to recalculate twice just to check. It is because it is still a huge amount of oil and cheese per portion, the points break down as follows: cheese (2), oil (7), quorn pieces (2), croutons (2) egg yolk (1).

To my mind it did taste quite nice (for a salad) but at these points values there is no way in hell I will recreate it! If I am going to spend that many points on a meal it has to be something that feels like it is worth it and for me this just does not do it. If you are a fan of ceasar salad then my guess is that you will like this because it is a great quorn version of the standard chicken dish but if you are trying to eat healthy then it is probably one to avoid!

For me this is a 5/10 - I can see what the recipe is trying to do but for me it is just not that enjoyable for the amount of points in it.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Fruity Quorn Burgers


Hello all, hope your January is not proving too bleak and depressing!

I attempted to cheer up our weekend by making Fruity Quorn Burgers which is the second of two recipes within the book for home made burgers. The other recipe (Cheese & Onion Burgers which you can find on this blog here) was a resounding success and I was therefore hoping for a repeat with this one - I was a little less confident about it being so though, based on two things - the amount of ingredients (substantial) and the amount of sweet things on it.

Don't get me wrong, I do like some sweet and sour combinations (pineapple on pizza for instance) but I could see that the balance in these burgers was towards the sweet, not the savoury, elements. A huge amount of grated carrot, apricots and sultanas are the driving force of the sweetness. The quorn mince is minimal in context.

Anyway, it is actually a very straightforward recipe, once the carrots are cooked and mashed literally everything is mixed together in one bowl. Some very pretty colours as you can see here:

In the bowl is the quorn mince (right at the bottom), the mashed carrots, spring onions, breadcrumbs, chopped rosemary and parsley,  chopped apricots and sultanas, chilli flakes, seasoning, orange zest and fresh chopped mint. The final thing added next was a beaten egg although to be honest you do not really need this to bind the mixture as the moisture from the mashed carrots is enough to hold it together easily.

I used a cookie cutter to help me shape the burgers, because the mixture is very wet it takes a lot of packing to hold it together tightly and I therefore transferred each burger to the hot frying pan in the cutter with a fish slice underneath to ensure they made it to the pan without incident!

I cooked four at a time in the pan, the recipe states it makes 10-12 burgers but these would be tiny, I made 8 and these were a standard size, comparable to a normal quorn burger. This is them in the pan after an initial 6 minutes and a very careful turning over!

You can see that despite my best efforts one of my burgers has started to dissemble a bit in the pan. This is one of the most annoying things about this recipe - it is a lot of faff!

Anyway, once cooked I served them in the traditional way and I apologise for the less than glam presentation here, I had no salad to hand and this looks rather dull!

I calculated propoints for this recipe as a whole and then deduced that a 'portion' would be a quarter as it is intended to serve 4 - from the burgers I made this meant a portion would be two burgers. Amazingly a portion is only 4 propoints (I note no propoints are up on the Quorn website yet but this is my calculation). As most of the ingredients are zero points it worked out like this per portion: quorn mince (1), breadcrumbs (1), apricots and sultanas (1) and oil for frying (1). 

This is amazingly low for a burger but disappointingly for me it did not really taste like a burger or give the same effect. I much prefer the cheese and onion burgers to these ones - both for the simplicity of the recipe and the taste/effect. These are VERY fruity so if you like your sweet/savoury combinations maybe this is one for you - of course the low propoints are handy, even with a roll it makes these acceptable as a main meal. In fact I did not fancy my second burger after I had eaten the first, these were just too sweet for me.

On balance this is not one of my favourite recipes, a lot of prep and faff to make burgers I did not overly enjoy. Notably though the burgers which were chilled in the fridge overnight were easier to cook and held together better the next day so maybe that is the trick as regards keeping them together. Personally I do not think I will be making these again!

We would give these a 4/10.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Quorn Thai Green Curry


Happy new year! 

I hope you have all had a restful festive period and not overindulged too much on the junk food! (I have a little!) I do apologise for the prolonged absence on this blog, I had a particularly busy run up to Christmas with a couple of business trips away and various things going on, I am now properly back on the horse however and have made this amazeballs Thai curry tonight.

I only have 10 recipes left to the end of the cookbook! Eeek....I wonder if 2012 will be the year of the 2nd Quorn cookbook - that would be lovely! I am also considering carrying on this blog with a different book as the focus so watch this space - it will still be veggie focussed of course.

You will notice if you use the link below to the actual recipe that the Quorn website has changed quite radically! I like the new website and the best thing about the new version is that each recipe has fat and calorie details and....WUHOO!!!! The propoints calculations per portion!! I wonder where they got that idea from....hmmmm...anyway my calculation is different for this recipe as I always try to make it skinnier too so I will still include my calculation and then you have the option.

Tonight I thoroughly enjoyed this Thai green curry which was a nice surprise as this is another dish which I frequently make at home anyway so it was weird to cook it in a different way with a different set of ingredients. 

This curry follows the same basic premise as every other Thai curry I have ever made, you cook off the paste in some oil, add chopped shallots, garlic and chilli, the soy-sauce-marinated quorn pieces and then a can of coconut milk (I used reduced fat - hence the point difference between my version and theirs), bring it to a simmer and you effectively have your sauce. At this stage you could add whatever you like (chicken, tofu, veggies etc) but this version calls for blanched asparagus tips, baby corn cobs and green beans plus fresh, thinly sliced courgette and pepper.

It only needs about 4 minutes from here before you add fresh lime juice and chopped coriander, this is what it looked like in the pan before serving:

You can see it is colourful and bursting with veggies - I think this is why we enjoyed it so much, it is incredibly filling and tasty!

This is it served over steamed basmati rice and garnished with chopped spring onions and some more coriander:

Here you can see that this is a typical Thai curry with a very abundant and watery sauce. I actually added half a can of water to the wok after the coconut milk as I know my husband absolutely loves the sauce and this would give us extra.

Although this is a slightly different curry to the one I would normally make because it is more faff (due to more ingredients and therefore prep time) it tastes amazing and is well worth the extra effort. The dish is perfect for a January tea time as it is zinging with flavour and bursting with lots of fresh veg, it was just the ticket for us tonight!

Using reduced fat coconut milk reduces the propoints value by 2 and so a portion works out at 6 propoints (8 with full fat coconut milk as per the Quorn website) the six points is broken down as follows: oil (2), quorn (2), coconut milk (2), soy sauce (1), Thai curry paste (1). This means if you then add a portion of weighed rice for another 6 points you have a blindingly tasty and filling meal for the grand total of 12 propoints - definitely a winner for me!

We give this meal an 8 out of 10 and I will definitely be making it again in the future - another successful Thia meal from Quorn!