Monday, February 25, 2008

Start the Week

When we read a recipe, we usually try and stick to the list of ingredients and the given method. This can often make the dish more expensive or time-consuming than it needs to be and also containing more calories than desired. Normally I do not give details of fat content, sugar content, calories etc., but most recipes now give these, so it is always worth reading through the listed ingredients and see what can be done to reduce the cost/calories/fat/sugar if that is what you wish to do.

The recipe below, given as an in-your-face version (by this I mean not stinting on the ingredients and ingredients as given), is said to have approx 800 calories per serving. But by changing the rice to 7 oz (200g) plain long-grain, and omitting the wild rice, we begin the savings. The chicken could be a total of two large breasts instead of one per person, even better, use what is leftover on the carcase after cooking the Sunday roast. Remember that 100g is not really 4 0z but more like 3 1/2 oz, so adjust to that when using imperial measurements, even half an ounce saved here and there will leave more for another day. It says 6 sticks of celery, I would use 4 or 5, slicing them thinner - they will give as much flavour. Less tablespoons of mayonnaise (and maybe reduce that by half and make up the shortfall with yogurt for a healthier dressing). A little less chutney and 1 tsp only of the curry paste (which -because using less, could be slightly hotter. Use half a large bell pepper instead of a whole. Three spring onions instead of four. Weigh the almonds and then take a few out to put back in the jar. Cutting costs (and calories) can be as simple as that.

Coronation Chicken with Rice: serves 4
1/2 pint (300ml) chicken stock
4 chicken breasts
8 oz (225g) long-grain rice and wild rice mixture
8 tblsp mayonnaise
2 tblsp mango chutney
1 tblsp mild curry paste
6 sticks celery, sliced
4 oz (100g) no-soak apricots, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, de-seeded and finely diced
4 spring onions, finely chopped
salt and pepper
2 0z (50g) flaked almonds, toasted
Put the stock into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the (raw) chicken breasts, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, remove chicken and set aside to cool (if using already cooked chicken omit this first part and continue from here...).
Add the rice to the chicken stock, adding more water if necessary, and cook the rice according to packet instructions (wild rice usually take slonger). Then - when tender - drain and set aside to cool.
Place the mayonnaise, chutney and curry paste into a bowl and mix together well. Slice or chop the chicken and add to the mixture together with the celery and apricots.
Using another bowl, mix together the rice, diced pepper and the spring onions. Season to taste. Spoon onto one large or four individual serving plates and top with the chicken mixture. Scatter over the almonds.

For our supper yesterday we had egg, sausages, baked beans and chunky oven-chips. With HP sauce for Beloved, tomato ketchup for me. It really was nice - we always enjoy it, but afterwards I began to consider the nutritional side. For one thing there was too much protein (provided by the sausage, eggs and even the beans). No veggies (although, at a pinch, baked beans can be included in the five-a-day). Certainly carbohydrate (chips). And certainly too much fat (sausage and fried egg). A new improved version would be sausage, less chips, and served with a side salad, giving a much better balanced and healthier meal. Is this a case of don't do as I do, do as I say?

As regards the fish, I would use less and cheaper fish, even using assorted fish offcuts that can be now bought in packs or from the fresh fish counter, or - if you prefer, a mixture of canned tuna and canned salmon. Use less potatoes - making the fish cakes slightly thinner so they heat through faster and need less oil for cooking (a non-stick pan also helps reduce the amount of oil needed). Serve with salad instead of the suggestion.
Posh Fish Cakes: serves 4
1 1/2 lb (700g) mashed cooked potatoes
8 oz (225g) cod or haddock fillet
8 oz (225g) salmon fillet
salt and pepper
1 tblsp finely chopped chives
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
4 oz (100g) polenta
3 tblsp fresh chopped dill
2 eggs, beaten
4 tblsp sunflower oil
5 tblsp mayonnaise
Place the fish in a pan, just covering with water. Add a little seasoning to taste, cover and simmer very gently (more like poaching) for about 10 minutes until cooked. Drain and remove any skin and bones. Flake the flesh and add to the mashed potatoes with the chives and lemon zest. Season to taste and mix together.
Mix the polenta with half the dill and put the beaten eggs into a shallow dish. Flour the hands and shape the fish mixture into 8 cakes (or make 12 thinner ones), dipping each into the egg and then into the polenta. Fry in the oil for 5 minutes on each side until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot. Make a mayonnaise sauce by mixing remaining dill and the lemon juice with the mayo. Serve the fishcakes with the mayo dressing spooned over and new potatoes, sweetcorn and peas.

As calorie counting and healthy eating seems to have taken precedence today, I finish with a lovely and nearly fat-free dessert which will please everyone. At 215 cals per serving why not have two helpings? Although it might add a few more calories, a little Greek yogurt could be spread either under or over the apricot filling before rolling up.
Apricot Swiss Roll: serves 8
3 eggs
4 oz (100g) plain flour
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
1 tbslp hot water
1 tsp vanilla extract or almond essence
1 oz (25g) flaked almonds (opt)
icing sugar
8 oz (225g) no-soak apricots, chopped
8 tblsp water
1 tblsp demerara sugar
Put the eggs and the caster sugar into a bowl and place this over simmering water. Whisk until thick enough to leave a ribbon when the whisk is lifted. Remove from heat and keep whisking until the mixture has cooled down. Sift half the flour over the mix and carefully fold in, then repeat with the remaining flour. Stir in the hot water and the essence.
Pour the cake batter into a greased and lined 9" x 13" (23 x 33cm) Swiss roll tin, dusting the paper with flour. Tilt the tin so that the mixture spreads evenly and into all four corners. Scatter the almonds on the top, then bake for 12 - 15 mins at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until golden and firm. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then upturn onto a sheet of baking parchment which has been dusted with icing sugar. Trim the edges, then roll up loosely, including the paper, and leave to cool (it sometimes helps if a damp cloth is put on the table and the paper placed on that before rolling up (but don't roll the towel in with the cake).
While the cake is cooking, make the filling by putting the water in a pan with the apricots and sugar, bring to the boil, cover, and reduce the heat. Simmer for 10 minutes then leave to cool.
Carefully unroll the cake, laying it flat, then carefully spread the apricot filling over the cake, right to the edges, then roll back up. Place on a serving plate, end of the roll underneath, and dust with icing sugar.