Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Harissa Spiked Vegetables with Quinoa, Feta & Almonds

Harrisa is a hot smoky red pepper paste used in North African cooking to flavour meat and stews. Here I’m using it as a marinade diluted with lemon juice to give a wonderfully smoky heat to roast vegetables. This is a low fat supper which keeps well for lunch the next day also. However this a great marinade on meat and poultry as it really tenderises the meat , keeping it moist and succulent.

Serves 2


·         2 small sweet potatoes, diced
·         100g quinoa
·         1 red pepper, cut into chunks
·         1 yellow pepper, cut into chunks
·         2 red onions, peeled and quartered
·         8 mushrooms, halved
·         4 tomatoes, deseeded and quartered
·         1 lemon juice
·         2 tsp of harrisa paste
·         3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
·         60g of low fat feta cheese, cubed
·         2 tbsp of toasted flaked almonds


1.       Preheat oven to 200 degrees
2.       In a jug, mix the lemon juice and harrisa paste
3.       Add the chopped vegetables to an oven dish, spreading them out in one even layer
4.       Pour over the marinade and mix to ensure each and every piece of vegetable is cooked
5.       Roast for 30 minutes, turning halfway.
6.       Meanwhile, cook 100g of quinoa according to packet, drain and allow to steam dry.
7.       Add the quinoa, feta, almonds and coriander to the roasting dish to combine all the flavours and serve.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Paprika Roast Chicken

Here’s a twist on a classic roast chicken recipe, the slow roast and intense flavours give a wonderfully moist chicken, if you follow this method you won’t be disappointed with the chicken.

Serves 4


·         1 large free range chicken
·         2 tsp of smoked paprika
·         Juice of 1 lemon
·         1 grated garlic clove
·         Salt & pepper
·         3 tbsp of honey
·         Leaves from 4 sprigs of thyme


1.       Preheat oven to 160 degrees
2.       In a jug, combine all the ingredients except the chicken and mix well
3.       Put the chicken in a oven dish and pour over the marinade and rub in all over.
4.       Gently lift the skin from the breast meat and rub some marinade under the skin
5.       Roast undisturbed, covered in foil for 1 hour.
6.       After 1 hour, turn the chicken up side down and roast for another 45 minutes, covered in foil.
7.       Once that time has lapsed, turn the chicken again and roast for a final 30 minutes uncovered. (if the skin starts to burn cover in the foil.
8.       Allow the bird to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.

Serve as you wish

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Childhood Irish Shepherd’s Pie

Me and my brother and sister grew up on Shepherd’s Pie, with either my mom or my dad making it for us at least once a week. In recessionary times in the 80s in Ireland we were always having dinners that stretched  that little bit more, embracing leftovers, and having a dish that would keep if my dad came in from work late. Growing up in my house in the 80s,rice and pasta were never heard of, even pizza was exotic to us. Or dinners were always meat, potatoes, and two veg, like all my other friends homes at the time. Coming from a town in Co. Kerry, rice and pasta came later to us than Dublin City and Cork City. We were a real typical Irish family of the time, very traditional.
With all that said, that is not to say we didn’t eat well!!! To the contrary, my mom’s shepherd’s pie is delicious and so tasty,  I’ve failed to taste another as good. And my dad’s Irish stews with lamb cutlets, or the Irish fry up we used to have every Saturday with chips......these are all fond memorable family meals and I still try to re-create them today.

I’ve tried to put a fancy shmacy spin on some of my childhood classics, but for me I thought it was taking away the most important component of the meal. I make these dinner to evoke these wonderful memories of my family table back in the 80s when I was growing up with my brother and sister. Granted half the time I was arguing at the table with either my brother or sister, but I think of those times with a smile, delighted that not much has changed in our house when we go home to visit, though now there’s more of a variety of things to cook and there’s plenty of wine. The only arguing is over who gets to do the cooking (everyone wants to show off their dishes). It’s family times like these that are so important these days, especially as we hit recessionary again. We must be thankful for our families and the time we get to spend together.

Now on with the Shepherd’s Pie.....I’d mortify myself by saying that I’d always been of the opinion that shepherd’s pie was made with minced meat and potato on top cooked in the oven. So for years previously I’d been cooking it with mince beef/steak. It was to my horror that I learned Shepherd’s Pie is only made with LAMB mince. It was like a light bulb going off. I Mean come on, duh!!, the clue is in the name, like!!! What I’d been making for years was in fact Cottage Pie. Morto!!

So today I’m here to set the record straight and, and go back to my roots and questioned my mother on how she used to make it back in the olden days,  and here’s her recipe:

Serves 4


·         1 lb lamb mince
·         1 onion, diced
·         10 mushrooms, sliced
·         3 carrots, parboiled
·         6 large potatoes, peeled and diced
·         200ml of beef stock cube
·         5 splashes of Worchester sauce
·         1 tbsp of tomato puree
·         1 tbsp of tomato ketchup
·         20g of real irish butter
·         3 tbsp of warmed milk
·         Salt and white pepper

To serve: has to be baked beans and Chef brown sauce


1.       Put a pan of potatoes in cold salted water and boil until soft
2.       Put the peeled, diced carrots in another pan and boil for 5 minutes, then drain and set aside.
3.       In a frying pan, fry off the mince then add the diced onion and fry for 3 minutes
4.       Add the tomato puree, ketchup and some stock into the pan and simmer.
5.       Add the mushrooms and carrots and allow to simmer for 10 minutes, adding more stock if necessary.
6.       Preheat oven to 220 degrees.
7.       To get amazing mash potatoes, warm some milk. Drain the potatoes and allow them to stem for a minute or so.
8.       Break the potatoes up with a knife, add the butter, salt and pepper and mash well with a potato masher.
9.       When mashed, add the milk, little at a time (you can always add more, but never take it back).
10.   Set aside and keep warm.
11.   Add frozen peas to the mince mixture and let them thaw for a minute or so.
12.   Add the mince evenly to an ovenproof dish.
13.   Spoon over the mash and if you like make some gashes in the potato for decoration.
14.   Add a further few knobs of butter over the pie to get a golden crust and bake for 20 minutes in the oven.

Everyone has they’re own way of eating shepherds pie, for me only baked beans and brown sauce will do.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

2 1/2 Hour Balsamic Beef Casserole

I’m a firm believer in the slower the cook, the more tender the food, and this casserole is pure testament to that. I hadn’t intended on cooking a casserole today,

 I’d actually planned on a beef stir fry for my husband, but when I arrived back into work after my lunch break with my steak, my lovely colleague Noreen informed me that the steak I got would need chewing for a week if I were to use it in a stir fry!! You see, I pickup up round steak from the supermarket, and round steak, although looks like a lovely sirloin does in fact requires really slow cooking in order for it to tenderise. So stir fry plans scrapped, I had to put my thinking cap on to figure out a stewing beef dish that wasn’t too boring.

I decided on a beef casserole with a Mediterranean influence, firstly because the flavours would go well together, but secondly because the majority of the ingredients are store cupboard staples that I would have at home already.  I use 3 tbsp of balsamic vinegar in this stew which does seem a bit too overpowering. But the slow cooking mellows the intense vinegar flavour, lending a deep richness to the dish.

Serves 4


  • 1 lb of round steak, cut into chunks
  • 4-5 sprigs of thyme, left intact
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp of tomato puree
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp of sugar
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chunked
  • 10 mushrooms, halved
  • 1 large chorizo, cubed
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 3 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp of flour
  • 8 leaves of fresh basil, shredded

Serving suggestion: pasta, rice, or potatoes


1.       Preheat oven to 140 degrees
2.       Get a large casserole dish on the heat, add the beef and the flour and stir until you have floury beef chunks.
3.       Add the oil, and get you heat on high, brown off the meat.
4.       Then add the garlic, carrots and mushroom, thyme and bay leaves.
5.       Add the tomato puree and the balsamic vinegar and stir to combine for a few minutes to get a good colour going.
6.       Add the tin of tomatoes, and then fill the tin with water and add that water too.
7.       Bring to the boil.
8.       Put a lid on the dish and put into the oven for 2 hours
9.       After the two hours are up, take the lid off for 15 minutes and put back into the oven to thicken the sauce
10.   Add the shredded basil and serve with rice, potatoes or pasta.

The result of this method of cooking results in melt in your mouth beef, no knife required.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Healthy Mince & Lentil Ragu - African Style

I’d no idea what to actually call this dish, I just wanted to make something completely different with low fat mince. So I added flavours as I went and this is what I came up with. My favorite type of cooking is making things up as you go along, its so organic, esp for someone who has a hard time following recipes (me). Granted, it sometimes leads to embarrassing disasters that I'd rather forget, but a lot of the time, it leads to discovering new ways with old ingredients. It makes cooking interesting, making life in the kitchen interesting.

This is Swahili style ragu, using garam masala, low fat turkey mince and lentils, making it a real one pot wonder. This is a wonderful dish for a midweek supper for anyone who is trying to follow a low carb high protein diet.

 The fragrance of the garam masala and the colour of the turmeric help make this quick and simple dish seem really exotic, helping to brighten up mid week suppers

Serves 4


  • 1 tbsp of oil
  • 450g turkey mince
  • 4 chopped tomatoes
  • 6 sliced mushrooms
  • 1 yellow pepper, diced
  • 1 grated ginger piece
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 1 red chili, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 tbsp of garam masala
  • 1 tsp of turmeric
  • 200 ml boiling water
  • 1 can of green lentils, rinsed
  • 2 tbsp of chopped coriander


  1.  Get a wok/wide pan on the hob, add the oil and the mince.
  2. Fry until the mince is fully coloured, and add the spices, garlic and ginger.
  3. Fry off the spices and add the chili.
  4. Add the mushroom, tomatoes and yellow pepper and fry off.
  5. Pour the hot water over the mixture, reduce the heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes.
  6. Add the lentils and allow them to warm through and scatter over the coriander.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dieters Pear & Chocolate Pots

I’m not known for my sweet dishes, however this recipe sounded so easy on the BBC Food website, I said I’d give it a go. The BBC’s recipe is for a serving of 4, but having followed the recipe there definitely not enough to fill 4 ramekins. So this really needs to be doubled in my opinion for 4 people. In saying that though, this recipe is still a good low fat pudding.

For laziness sake, I used pears from a can and this makes the cooking of the pears much quicker. Be sure to get pears in fruit juice, though not syrup, we are trying to make a low fat dessert after all.
Serves 2

·        3 pears, halved
·        Juice of ½ lemon
·        1 tbsp brown sugar
·        50g icing sugar
·        1 tbsp of cocoa podwer
·        25g ground almonds
·        1 egg white

1.      Heat oven to 160 degrees.
2.       Chop the pears into small pieces and put in a pan with the lemon juice and sugar.
3.       Bring to the boil, then cover and cook for 6 mins.
4.      into 2 ramekins and add a teaspoon of liqueur to each, if using.
5.      For the topping, sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl, then stir in the almonds.
6.      Whisk the egg white until stiff, fold into the dry ingredients with a metal spoon.
7.      Spoon over the pears and shake the ramekins to level the mixture
8.       Bake for 20 mins until the topping is firm to the touch.
9.      Leave to set for at least 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with a final dusting of icing sugar.
10.  I found to cut the sweetness of the dish that a spoon of 0% Greek yogurt on top of the chocolate is a good combination.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cajun Chicken Goujons with Panko Breadcrumbs

These yummy goujons are a grown up version of chicken nuggets that my mom used to make for me when I was little. The use of Japanese Panko breadcrumbs in place of ordinary breadcrumbs, gives this dish a sophisticated lift. If you can't get the Panko breadcrumbs however, of course use regular breadcrumbs, or why not a mixture of crushed cornflakes and sesame seeds. The options for coatings really are endless. I've made these breadcrumbs spicy by adding 2 tbsp of cajun spice mix to the breadcrumb mix, but this could easily be changed for dried Italian herbs, or Thai 7 spice, etc. Play around will flavours and textures.

I've accompanied these delicious goujons with a quick red pesto mayonnaise dip, by literally mixing 1 part of shop bought red pesto with 2 parts low fat mayonnaise 

You can easily have these goujons with dinner with french fries or rice or mash potatoes (like mom used to do), or an elegant starter on a pimped-up salad, or even in a burger or tortilla wrap. They are superb as casual canapes for a drinks party. I've done a simple salad with these for myself and a dipping platter for my salad-phobia hubbie.

They're great to make a big batch of them and freeze them, so that you can bang them straight in the oven for a quick supper.I've baked these in the oven as opposed to shallow or deep frying, thus keeping the fat content down.


  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 chicken breast, cut into strips
  • 50 g of cornflour mixed with salt and pepper
  • 100g of panko breadcrumbs mixed with 2 tbsp cajun spices
  • Thyme leaves from 4-5 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 tbsp of red pesto
  • 4 tbsp of low fat mayo
  • Lemon wedges to serve
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees 
  2. Create an assembly line by putting the cornflour mix in one bowl, egg in another and breadcrumb mixture in another.
  3. Dip the chicken strips into the cornflour, tap off the excess. Next dip it into the egg, shaking the excess. Finally place in the breadcrumbs and coat evenly with the breadcrumb mixture.
  4. Transfer to a lined baking sheet, and repeat with remaining chicken strips.
  5. Bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes, turning once half way through.
  6. To make the mayo, simply combine the mayo and pesto in a bowl.
  7. Serve the goujons however you wish.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Zero Fat Roast Butternut Squash & Thyme Soup

This is a ‘zero point’ soup, that has winter written all over it. So simply and quick to make, you can get on with other chores around the kitchen whilst its cooking. By roasting the squash first, this releases all the natural sugars and carmelises the squash, giving dense sweet squash. 

Also by roasting garlic in its skins, mellows the flavour of the garlic, giving a rich sweet taste. Garlic is completely transformed when roasted in its skins, and is not as bitter or strong. The use of thyme in this soups gives a warming wintery flavour.


·         1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
·         1 leek, shredded
·         1 onion, diced
·         1 carrot, peeled and grated
·         5 sprigs of thyme
·         1 bay leaf
·         2 tbsp of olive oil
·         Salt & pepper
·         3 cloves of garlic, skin on.
·         1 vegetable stock cube


1.       Preheat oven to 180 degrees
2.       Add 3 sprigs of thyme, 1 tbsp of oil, butternut squash and garlic to a roasting tray.
3.       Roast for 20 minutes.
4.       In a saucepan, gently fry onion, leek and carrot with the remaining oil, and 2 sprigs thyme.
5.       Open the vegetables are softened, add the stock cube and 1 litre of water from a recently boiled kettle.
6.       Add the roasted squash.
7.       Remove the garlic from its skins, and chop finely. Add this to the soup with a bay leaf.
8.       Boil to a rolling boil, and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
9.       Remove the bay leaf, season with salt and pepper and whizz till smooth with hand held blender. Careful not to burn yourself with splashes.

Serve with garlic bread or croutons for an elegant starter, with a blob of cream or yogurt.

 Or as a low fat lunch, serve with green salad and some melba toasts.
This soup keeps well, cooled in air-tight container for 2-3 days.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Roast Vegetables with Quinoa, Feta & Chickpeas

Following watching My Kitchen: Anjum Anand, I just had to try quinoa for myself. Anjum is a healthy eating Indian cook, very conscious of making low fat vegetarian food at home. In one particular episode she made quinoa and roasted vegatables. Having never made it before I was dying to try it. I’m a sucker for anything that’s low fat and promotes healthy eating.
anjum ananad.bmp

This is the nutriental value of quinoa I sourced from Wikipedia

Quinoa was of great nutritional importance in pre-Columbian Andean civilizations, secondary only to the potato, and was followed in importance by maize. In contemporary times, this crop has become highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its proteincontent is very high (12%–18%). Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), and like oats, quinoa contains a balanced set ofessential amino acids for humans, making it a complete protein source, unusual among plant foods.[13] It is a good source ofdietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest.


So today I’ve decided to cook the quinoa and roasted vegetables with my own flair to the dish. I actually made enough for my dinner and my lunch the following day, but alas it tasted so good, I dug into my lunch half also. (Please feel free to use whatever vegetables you have in the house, I did)

Serves 2


·         100g of quinoa
·         1 small sweet potato, peeled & cubed
·         1 small fennel bulb, sliced thinly
·         4 asparagus spears, woody ends removed
·         1 red pepper, sliced roughly
·         1 courgette, sliced roughly
·         1 tbsp of olive oil
·         4 sprigs thyme
·         ½ can of chickpeas
·         30g of low fat feta, cubed
·         Chopped flat leaf parsley


1.       Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
2.       Put all the vegetables in a roasting tin with oil & thyme and mix thoroughly
3.       Roast for 20 minutes, turning them half way.
4.       Meanwhile, put the quinoa in saucepan of water with lemon juice and salt and simmer for 12-15 minutes.
5.       Drain out excess liquid
6.       Take the vegetables out of the oven, and mix in the quinoa, chickpeas,and feta.
7.       Put the roasting tin back in the oven for 5 minutes.
8.       Then take out and scatter with the parsley and dig in.

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