Thursday, 29 March 2012

Recipe Corner - A simple but excellent little potato salad

Potato salad is not something I think to make very often. But I think I must have been inspired by Jenny’s recent post on the German style sausage with potato salad, because when I saw that I had half a bag of new potatoes leftover in the bottom of the fridge I developed something of a craving. One swift adjustment of the meal plan later, potato salad and smoked sausage was on the weekly menu.

Now in the past, I would have just gone down the route of combining potatoes with some mayonnaise (probably extra light – for shame!) some chopped veggies, seasoning, nice enough but nothing particularly exciting. But a couple of tweaks later, inspired by a recipe I found online of Diana Henry’s (a cookery writer who earned my enduring adoration with her fabulous Gastropub cookbook) it was elevated several notches. The notion of soaking the potatoes in stock beforehand is genius, as is the combination of mayonnaise and crème fraiche.

I have used full fat mayo here, and half fat crème fraiche. This latter ingredient is fast becoming a staple in my fridge – I often use it in place of cream and absolutely adore it – it is rich, creamy with a slight edge of sour and significantly lower in points than cream.

Hopefully, the summer will continue in a similar vein to the amazing week we have just had and then this salad can make its barbecue debut! As one of several side dishes, this would comfortably serve four. Oh, and it would probably work very well with some fresh herbs added to the dressing – I wondered about mint while I think Diana suggested chervil and parsley.


400g new potatoes
50ml good vegetable or chicken stock
30g mayonnaise (be a divil and go full fat)
40g half fat crème fraiche (Yeo Valley is an excellent brand)
Squeeze of lemon juice
Small bunch of spring onions, chopped

Serves 2 (as a generous main course), 8 pro points per portion

Put the potatoes in a pan, cover with salted water and bring to the boil. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until tender.

Meanwhile, chop the spring onions and combine with the mayonnaise, crème fraiche, lemon juice and seasoning to taste.

When the potatoes are cooked, slice and, while still warm, pour over the stock. Part cover and leave to stand for about 10 minutes to allow the potatoes to absorb it.

While the potatoes are still warm, mix through the dressing. This can be served chilled but is probably best slightly warm or, at least, at room temperature.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Recipe Corner - Winter Minestrone soup (just in time for spring...)

Providing a soup recipe always feels like a bit of a cop out. I mean, the basic premise of soup is: cook ingredients, blitz, consume. But a hearty, tasty soup is the dieter’s friend. Soup is, apparently, more filling than consuming food and water separately. It said so on the BBC website. But I could have told you that from anecdotal evidence; I NEVER have soup as a starter when I go out to eat because I never fancy a full meal afterwards.

This soup is particularly robust, and you get a generous portion for the points. I do recommend blitzing some of it, which is not usual with any sort of minestrone, because the whizzed up potatoes and beans provide an almost creamy texture which makes the soup feel more luxurious than otherwise.

If you have the points the pesto croutons are a lovely addition.


For the soup:
Tbsp olive oil
90g (approx 3 rashers) back bacon, chopped
200g (approx 1 medium) potato, peeled and diced
1 tin (200g drained weight) of haricot beans (drained and rinsed)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
Onion, peeled and chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tin of tomatoes
750ml chicken stock
2 tsp dried sage
40g Parmesan cheese, finely grated

For the croutons:
4 slices of bread from a medium white loaf, cut into squares
Tbsp olive oil
40g pesto sauce

Serves 4, 5 pro points per portion for the soup with an additional 5 pro points per portion for the pesto croutons

Chop your vegetables as desired – I prefer a fine dice for this sort of soup.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the bacon and onion for about five minutes. Keep the heat quite low so that the fat renders from the bacon and the onion turns golden brown.

Now add the carrot, celery and potato dice and the crushed garlic and cook for a few more minutes.

Next go in the tomatoes, stock and sage, plus seasoning as required (remember the stock and the bacon will be quite salty), bring to the boil and then reduce and simmer for around 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, drain and rinse the beans and prepare your croutons. Slice the bread into squares, mix the oil and the pesto and toss the bread in the mixture. Season. Preheat the oven to 180.

After 30 minutes, add the beans to the pan and continue to simmer. Place the croutons in the preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes. Grate the Parmesan.

Just prior to removing the croutons from the oven, take about a third of the soup (ensuring you have a good range of the diced ingredients) and whizz up in a blender until smooth. Return to the pan. Check the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper or sage as necessary.

Serve, sprinkled with Parmesan and the pesto croutons (or not, if you’re feeling virtuous).

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

So what’s new with you?

Or, the Foodie tries so you don’t have to…

So, firstly, let’s talk chocolate cheese. Cadburys Philadelphia Light. This particular product has the Weight Watchers messageboards aflame (in so far as an internet messageboard can ever said to be aflame…) and, frankly, with good reason. If you like chocolate cheesecake then it is very important that you try some of this glorious stuff soon. The mini pots, or a 30g serving from a fullsize pot, are 2 pro points. You can smear it on toast, or cake, or biscuits, or fruit, or just eat it with a spoon. Luscious.

Image from The Grocer website.  May provoke attempts to break through computer screen with a spoon.
 And next up on my product review list is an epic fail. Lurpak Lightest. I bought it out of interest because I like Lurpak and think the Lighter version is a pretty good ingredient to have in one’s fridge for cooking purposes (as opposed to smearing purposes – if you’re having butter on toast or crumpets etc. then it needs to be the proper stuff.) The Lightest is obviously a step too far. I had to melt it for use in a banana loaf – it looked like scary alien mucus and refused to cream properly with the sugar. I then (foolishly) attempted to use it as the basis for a white sauce. Terrible. I have never before had to sieve a white sauce, but the roux just would not cook out properly. And, it doesn’t taste nice. It may be low in points (1 pro point per 10g serving) but that is all that can be said for it.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Meal Planning Monday - 26th March 2012

Well, we all knew it was coming eventually - small gain on the scales for me this morning, quite expected what with my lack of focus last week.  It's a temporary blip though, I'm still keen to get to that stone and a half mark before I head to Scotland, so Virtuous is my watchword this week.

With that in mind, what will we be eating chez nous?

Tonight we're having cheesy chicken and leek pie, with roasted broccoli on the side (D may get some mash but I'm abstaining - see what I mean about virtuous?)

For the rest of the week: the winter minestrone soup, which didn't get made last week is back on the menu despite the fact that it is no longer winter.

The broad beans are still propagating in my freezer - do the damn things breed in there???  So spaghetti with broad beans, peas and goats' cheese one night.  D has requested chilli con carne - a favourite of his, so that's lined up - a good slow cooker dish for an evening where I feel like minimal effort.

Oh, and did you know it's bacon connoisseurs week?  So the lovely Jenny tells me, and I'm always one to mark a Week...we've got some decent bacon and one night we're going to have good old bacon sarnies.  I thought about doing something a little more adventurous, but really, you can't beat a bacon sandwich.

And that gets us to the weekend.  There may well be another pie in our near future, as I have some game mix in the freezer and we're fast leaving pie weather behind us (we hope) but we'll see.

As always, head over to Mrs M's for more meal planning fun.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Steady as she goes

After a run of good results and general enthusiasm, I’ve had a bit of a slump this week. Not just with regards WW but eating in general, as evidenced by the fact that for the last two evenings I’ve had sandwiches for supper. Not that there is anything wrong with sandwiches for supper, I just recognise a touch of malaise about my person.

I’m not unduly worried. Since Christmas, I’ve been very busy, regularly away from home at least one night a week; looking back through my calendar I see I’ve only had one day off (which was the day after a job interview, and which I spent wandering around London feeling teary and pessimistic – not the most relaxing way to pass the time). What I’m trying to say is that I think a bit of malaise, weariness, whatever you wish to call it, is allowed. We’ve got a week in Scotland coming up over Easter which will be the perfect opportunity to do some recharging of batteries and get a good dose of fresh air and vim. And, hopefully, haggis.

So, I’m going to set myself a little mini goal which is to be a further two pounds down by two weeks today (Good Friday), the day before we head off. This will take me to a stone and a half loss since Christmas, which would be a lovely milestone to reach and if I manage it I’m going to pop into town and buy myself something nice to wear down to the local pub in Kilchoan. I’ll shift my normal Monday weigh in back a few days to accommodate. Hopefully aiming for this will give me that little bit of extra enthusiasm to carry me through this last pre-holiday stretch.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Meal planning Monday - 19th March 2012

Happy Monday pop pickers!  It started out as a beautiful day, all sunshine and daffodils, so spring might be finally sprunging. 

Despite ending the week on minus fifteen points (which show up as red in the tracker to further highlight the shame) I lost three pounds this week, taking me to a total of nineteen since the beginning of January.  I am (very tentatively) describing this as a roll.  As for the minus points - I blame, in part, my discovery of salted caramel profiteroles on Saturday night.  Yes, you heard, salted caramel profiteroles.  Such deliciousness.

Anyway, on with the meal planning for this week.
  • Tonight, we'll be having a "Sunday" roast.  This is because I roasted a chicken and prepped some veg yesterday and we then decided to have sandwiches (although, note to self, roast chicken and home made sage and onion stuffing sandwiches are fantastic.) 
  • Tomorrow I'm away for the night, so D is fending for himself and I will be trying not to drink too much.
  • Wednesday - I'll be travelling back from Liverpool and won't arrive till quite late, but I'm hoping D can be prevailed upon to put together a winter minestrone soup with pesto toasts.  He's pretty nifty in the kitchen, I reckon he'll manage.
  • Thursday - Salmon in a creamy mustard sauce with pasta.  Salmon and mustard is a surprisingly lovely combination.
  • Friday - Bacon wrapped pigeon breasts with a warm salad of Puy lentils, apple and walnuts.
  • Saturday - D is out so I'm home alone.  There may be cheesy chips involved.
  • Sunday - The remainder of the roast chicken will be transformed into a cheesy chicken and leek pie with mashed potatoes and roasted broccoli.
As always, pop over to Mrs M's for more meal planning fun.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

A dirty little habit…

This blog could quite well be called “The WW (sometimes) EatsPrettyMuchEverythingIndiscrimately-ie” because I am no longer allowed to call myself a foodie.

But I can’t help it people, sometimes I just have to give in to the dark side. For tea last night I had…

Can you see what they are? Well, I’ll tell you.

1 x box M&S “frites” (9 pro points) topped with grated cheese (2 pro points), low fat mayonnaise (1 pro point) and a good hefty pinch of sea salt. They are, my friends, cheeeeeezee chips.

I blame D – he introduced me to these one lunchtime at a Leeds hostelry, but to be honest, I’m surprised I didn’t discover the phenomenon sooner. I mean, I come from a family where we believe that pretty much any meal is improved by a layer of melted cheese. But actually, I’m not the world’s biggest chip fan – I’d nearly always rather have mash or roasties. So the notion of cheezee chips entirely passed me by.  No more.

I’m now slightly obsessed. I’m already wondering when I can next indulge.

A few pointers if you wish to join my long, dark teatime of the soul – you don’t want your chips to be too thick or too crisp. Thinnish, but with a good amount of bend. Not too much cheese (only time you’ll ever hear that from me!). And cheap mayonnaise. The good stuff just won’t do – it has to have that tang of articifial preservatives.

Normal (cooking) service to be resumed shortly.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

In which I distract myself on the journey home across the Pennines

I would like to offer a hypothesis that among those people (for sake of ease I'll use a feminine pronoun but it equally applies to men) who can be called "slim" (or perhaps, rather, average-ish of size) there are probably two distinct types.

Type A is your natural slim person. Your typical A has never been on a diet in her life and seldom weighs herself. She doesn't really need to because she naturally regulates herself. If she has a large slice of cake mid afternoon she might not have much for dinner. On the other hand, a hungry day is a hungry day - she'll eat if she needs to because she knows perfectly well she'll be less hungry (and eat less) tomorrow or the next day. Perhaps after Christmas, or a week away, her favourite jeans will feel a little tight so she'll cut out the mid morning biscuit for a while and fit in an extra swim. No big deal.

Type B, on the other hand, has probably been on some sort of diet for as long as she can remember. She tried out the Cabbage Soup one, and the weird one with the frankfurters and bananas and had a glorious few days on Atkins mainlining protein until she realised it WAS possible to get sick of cheese. She is slim now but the rituals: of weighing in, of self denial, of wondering if she is slim enough...they never leave her.

I have been wondering, you see, if it is ever possible to move from Type B to A (or, I suppose vice versa; although every child probably starts out fairly A-ish and then picks up habits and thought patterns elsewhere). This migration, it is what I aspire to (assuming I reach the Hallowed Halls of slim first - nothing like getting ahead of oneself!) Actually, I was thinking today it is one of the reasons that I like Weight Watchers as a diet plan. As you juggle your points and sacrifice a biscuit in the afternoon for a piece of naan bread with your curry, you are making the kind of decisions that your Type A makes naturally - without a tracker and a constant, twitchy desire to check up on the nutritional information. So do you, can you ever lose the tracker and the twitch?

And now I've just thought of a quote from Friends (there really is one for every occasion) when Monica says something like "I owe it to the fat girl inside me - I never let her eat!"

Do we EVER get to ditch the fat girl?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, 12 March 2012

Meal Planning Monday - 12th March 2012

Greetings from not so sunny Manchester! I am writing this from a tram which is rather exciting - I haven't been on one for years.

I lost a pound on the scales this morning which I didn't really deserve. Towards the end of last week I was really struggling; resenting being away from home, resenting being slightly hungry all the time and just generally being rather grumpy.

Anyhoo, I was prepared to accept a gain and seeing a loss was like a gentle nudge to say you CAN do this which is exactly what I needed. It may yet catch up with me though, so best behaviour is required this week.

Onto meal planning - and the beginning of the week sees me roaming again (although home in the evenings) so simplicity is key. That's why Monday and Wednesday will probably be soup, eggs on toast or pasta pesto and Tuesday will see us enjoying the second half of the oxtail stew that we made a few weeks back.

On Thursday we will be having an old favourite - a Madhur Jaffrey prawn curry.

Friday - lime and pepper crusted tuna with cucumber spaghetti and crushed new potatoes.

No firm plans for the weekend as yet, but I am seeing a roast chicken in my future at some point; I still have Christmas sprouts in the freezer to use.

As always, head over to Mrs M's for more meal planning fun.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

In which I miss my kitchen

This is the fourth week out of six I have been away from home and it is beginning to take its toll.

The weight loss has continued, slow but steady (a further pound off this week) but, oh, it is beginning to be a trial having to navigate mass catering for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Actually, I’ve given up on breakfast altogether (and yes, I know that is a terrible habit but I’ve got to create some room for manoeuvre somewhere and I’ve never been a fan of the Full English at half past seven in the morning – it is more of an eleven o clock meal to my mind).

I am proud of myself for conquering the chattering voice in my head that says if you can’t point properly then there is no need to point at all. I guestimate everything I eat, tending on the side of caution, and trying to stick to the simplest iteration of whatever is on offer. It is frustrating though, to fuel my days with mediocre food. I have realised how lucky I am to enjoy cooking and to enjoy the challenge of providing myself with meals that are not only WW friendly but good to eat as well.

Hopefully some more food (and less whinge) based posts will follow next week. In the meantime, hug your ovens people, and give your worktops a fond stroke. You’d miss them if they weren’t there.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Recipe Corner – Friday Night Fakeaway

D hates the phrase Fakeaway. He thinks that it sounds like something uttered by a maniacal WW leader trying to persuade people that chicken breast rolled in egg white and crushed cornflakes tastes better than a KFC (this has actually happened to me, and to be strictly fair, I’ve never tried cornflake crusted chicken so can’t confirm for sure whether or not it is preferable to a visit to the Colonel).

Anyway, I know what he means – the point about takeaway food is, sometimes, that it is just a little bit…well, dirty. There’s no other word for it. Takeaways should be an occasional pleasure that come tinged with a little bit of guilt.

Actually, I don’t advocate feeling guilty about any foodstuff, which is a breakthrough if ever I heard one. If you (and by you I mean me) are prepared to take the hit on it: be that a gain at the scales or several trips to the gym, or a day of fruit and salad and little else, then I say go for it. But I still think that to experience the full pleasures of a takeaway there should be a bit of mess, an avoidance of cutlery where possible, and a greasy chin.

This is not dirty; there will be no excess grease. It is very tasty though

Oh, and my top tip for the day. I always buy large pieces of root ginger and freeze them, then, when I need to use them for cooking, grate them straight from frozen. There is no need to peel, either before freezing or using, and they are far more amenable this way - not to mention they keep for a much longer period. Chillies freeze equally well.

Lamb seekh kebabs


180g lean lamb mince (16% fat or less)
3 fat garlic cloves, crushed
1-2cm fresh (or frozen) ginger, finely grated
Small handful of fresh mint, chopped
1 green chilli, finely chopped and seeds removed
Tsp garam masala
½ tsp chilli powder
Small handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped
10g butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced

To serve: 2 pitta breads
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce

Serves 2, 11 pro points per portion

These couldn’t be easier to make. In a large bowl, combine the lamb mince, garlic, ginger and other herbs and spices and a generous pinch or two of salt – the easiest way is to just get your hands in there and squish well (a technical term, I’m sure). Then form into four fat sausage shapes. You could mould them around skewers if you so desired, although I have to say that I didn’t bother. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow them to firm up.

In a moderate oven (180-200) bake the little kebabs for around 30 minutes.

Around halfway through the kebabs’ cooking time, melt the butter in a large pan and, over a very gentle heat, start to soften the onion. Add a generous pinch of salt to allow them to sweat without colouring.

Remove the kebabs from the oven, slice in half long ways and place, cut side down, in the onion pan for a minute or two. This will help them to form a pleasing crust. Meanwhile, toast and split the pitta breads.

To serve, spread the soft, buttery onions out over the pitta bread, top with the kebab meat (four pieces per person) and drizzle with sweet chilli sauce. I suggest serving with some sort of chipped potato - I made wedges which I tossed in some oil, paprika and dried chilli flakes before roasting for around 45 mins. They’re roasties by any other name but nice nonetheless. Oven chips would also work here. Remember to add on the points for any accompaniments.