Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Low Down on Low Fat

Skimming away the Fat:
If you wish to use any recipe but still cut down the fat, here are some useful tips for buying and cooking.

Trim off all visible fat from meat and chicken, both before and after cooking. And remove skin from chicken before cooking.

Cut down on the meat used in stews and casseroles. TVP mince cooked with to ordinary minced steak gives the texture of 'real' meat throughout, still the same protein value, but less calories and contains no fat.
Alternatively, add extra vegetables and pulses such as chickpeas, red kidney beans etc.

Serve meals with plain pasta, potatoes (dry-roasted) and boiled/steamed grains to help fill us up. With any fat-free food (potatoes are a good example) it is not the food, but the butter, dressings, sauces etc. that we add to the food that is the problem.

Whenever possible leave a 'fatty' soup or stock (or even casserole) to chill overnight in the fridge. The fat will have risen to the top and solidified, so easily removed. Make sure the food is thoroughly reheated before eating.

There are plenty of low-fat dairy products now on sale, and the yogurts, fromage fraise and creme fraiche can be used instead of full fat cream.
Also there are very low fat cream cheeses that work just as well as those with full fat, and many fat-reduced cheeses of the Cheddary type. Edam is a cheese that is naturally lower in fat.
A swirl of yogurt on top of a bowl of hot soup makes a good alternative to cream.

The best oil to use is olive oil, but as an alliterative for keeping foods moist when being cooked (aka basting), use citrus juices, vegetable juices, soy sauce or wines. When making bolognese sauce, 'fry' the onions in a little of the juice from a can of tomatoes, before adding the meat and then the remaining tomatoes.

Look out for low-fat alternatives such as low-fat evaporated and condensed milks, and a low-fat coconut milk. But always check the label. Low cholesterol doesn't always mean low fat - just low in saturatated fats. Processed foods tend to be higher in fats.

Use oil that comes in a spray-can, for a light film of this could be adequate (esp if using a non-stick pan) and will save many tablespoons of cooking oil that might normally be used over a period of time. If shallow frying, the hotter the oil the less the food will absorb, and the food should always be drained on kitchen paper to absorb the surface oil.
Steaming is an excellent way to cook food (fish, vegetables etc) as this keeps in all the natural flavours, and as some important vitamins are water-soluble, steaming also helps to retain these.

For extra flavour add herbs, spices and citrus juices to meat, fish and chicken, and wrap in a parcel of foil if wishing to oven-cook. They then 'steam' in their own juices.
If wishing to open-cook, place the meat on a trivet standing in a roasting tin so that all the fat drips below and can be poured away.
Grilling and the barbecue are also an excellent way to get the flavour of 'roasting' but losing most of the fat, as this again drips through the bars.

If not needing to cut out fat entirely (and we do need to eat a small amount) we can at least cut down and still serve a dish in the 'normal' way. Here are a few recipes that may help...

Low Fat Cheese Sauce: use for lasagne, cauliflower cheese...
1 oz (25g) cornflour
16 fl.oz (450ml) skimmed milk
4 oz (100g) reduced fat cheese
Blend a little of the milk into the cornflour to form a smooth paste (this is called 'slaking'), then gently heat the milk and when hot, but not boiling, stir in the slaked cornflour. Keep stirring until the the mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat, stir in the cheese until melted, then use as required.
Do not over-boil a sauce made with cornflour as after about 20 minutes or so it tends to go thin again.
Note: adjust the thickness of the sauce by using more (or less) cornflour, and more (or less) milk.

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce: pizzas, pasta, chicken etc...
2 red bell peppers
1 dessp olive oil
1 red onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 x 425g (14oz) can chopped tomatoes
1 oz (25g) each chopped fresh parsley and basil leaves
1 tblsp tomato puree
2 tsp caster sugar
12 fl.oz (375ml) water
salt and pepper
Cut the peppers into quarters, remove membrane, stalk and seeds, and cook under a grill, skin-side up, until the skins are charred and blackened. Place immediately into a plastic bag, twist the end shut and leave to 10 minutes, by which time they will have cooled and the skin able to be easily peeled off and discarded, then roughly chop the peppers and set aside.
Heat the oil in a pan and cook the onions for 2 minutes until beginning to soften, then stir in the garlic and cookj for a further minute. Add the tomatoes, herbs, tomato paste, sugar and water. Stir to mix, then add the prepared peppers. and simmer, uncovered, over a very low heat for up to an hour, or until thickened.
Cool slightly then blitz (in batches) in a blender or food processor. Season to taste.
note: if wishing to use for a pizza, it may not be necessary to blitz if you want a chunky tomato sauce to spread over the base, but cook it down until really thick.

When if comes to reducing fat, most of us avoid baking cakes, but these Brownies are lower in (saturated) fats, and for those who wish to cut down but not cut out, these at least can be eaten without too much of a guilt feeling.
Fudge Brownies: makes 18
2 oz (50g) plain flour
2 oz (50g) self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 oz (75g) cocoa powder
2 eggs
10 oz (3oog) caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tblsp vegetable oil
7 oz (200g) low-fat fromage frais
4 oz (100g) apple puree
icing sugar
Sift together the flours, bicarb, and cocoa together. In another bowl put the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, oil, fromage frais, and apple puree and mix well. Add to the flour and stir until well combined.
Spread mixture into a lightly greased and lined shallow baking tin (12" x 8"/30 x 20cm), smoothing the surface, then bake at 180c, 350F, gas 4 for about half an hour or until a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean.
Leave to cool in the tin for five minutes (it will sink slightly in the centre so not your fault), then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar then cut into pieces to serve.