Friday, 24 August 2012

Healthy Recipe Round-Up

I've recently started to make a concerted effort to eat more healthily, and cut down on the amount of fat and calories in both mine and my husband's diet. While a bit of weight loss would be a welcome side-effect, this is not necessarily my chief aim. I've been quite inspired by watching The Hairy Dieters, and realised that by making a few changes, I could make our diet a lot healthier.

I've been trying various recipes over the last few weeks, mostly from the BBC Good Food Website, and thought I'd share what has worked well so far.


This was delicious! Really good flavours. As you can see from the picture, I served mine with rice, and doing so meant there was enough left over for lunch the next day. I will definitely be making this again. One portion on its own is only 350 calories, and I wasn't hungry later (this is always a good test of whether a dish works for me - if I'm going to end up eating more later, I might as well have something less healthy for dinner!).

2. Chicken chilli bowl
A perfectly nice dish. I used chicken breast instead of thigh fillets and red kidney beans instead of pinto beans, and left out the green beans because I didn't have any. I served it with a pitta bread each, which went very nicely with it. Nice and filling and only 435 calories - not bad. I might make it again if I happen to have the ingredients in.

3. Lemon & rosemary pork with chickpea salad
I'm kicking myself for not remembering to take a picture of this because it looked fabulous! The flavours were wonderful too - it's a really lovely marinade. Marinading is not something I do often, so it was nice to do something a bit different. I halved the recipe, except the ingredients for the marinade and that worked out fine for two people. Actually, we still had chickpeas leftover at the end. I offered my husband more chickpeas once he'd finished, but he said he was all chickpea-ed out. This was really delicious and I would definitely cook again, but I did end up eating some toast later in the evening. 396 calories per serving, apparently.

4. Three bean tomato and spinach stew
This was ok. I used a tin of mixed beans and I used runner beans. I served it with some rice. One portion is supposedly 153 calories, but I suspect we had more as I only got 3 servings out of it, but even so it is still low in calories. Might make this again if the mood takes me and I have the right ingredients in.

5. Winter vegetable pie
Although this is called Winter Vegetable Pie, I think you could have it all year round. Plus I substituted the cauliflower with broccoli, which I think is less wintery. I have nothing against cauliflower - in fact, I like it quite a lot - but my husband doesn't, so I had to use broccoli. I think it would have been nice with cauliflower though. This was quite tasty, and quite filling (although, again, we probably had slightly more than one portion each - to be fair, I did not have enough potato, so only used about 500g potatoes, so I think we had less potato but more veg each). I used vegetable stock instead of water, which I think probably helped the flavour a lot. 388 calories per portion. I would like to make this again, perhaps using some different veg to see how it works.


One of the advantages to my new healthy eating regime is that I am trying lots of new recipes and it's giving me lots of new and creative ideas for cooking dishes. I actually feel a lot more enthusiastic about cooking than I have done for a while and have been cooking a lot more recently.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Recipe: Bragioli (Beef Olives)

This is a Maltese dish which my husband and I both very much enjoyed eating on our honeymoon, and I decided to try and recreate it at home.

The English name of 'Beef Olive' is perhaps a little misleading, in that olives are not involved, except that the finished product is almost a giant olive shape. The dish is essentially some beef wrapped around a central stuffing, the contents of which can vary, cooked in a red wine sauce.

The recipe I used was largely from The Food & Cookery of Malta by Anne and Helen Caruana Galizia, a fantastic little book I picked up from a bookshop in Victoria, Gozo. I did adapt the recipe to serve two, though, and made a few other changes, so have reproduced my version of the recipe below.


Serves 2

2 slices of beef, thinly sliced

4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt and pepper

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped/sliced
2 medium-sized carrots, sliced
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
150ml red wine
150ml water
A handful or two peas (fresh or frozen)

1) I fried the bacon first before adding to the stuffing, but other recipes don't say to do this. I just thought it might be nice to get a bit of colour on the bacon. I also then used the fat from the bacon left in the pan to cook everything else in - economical.
2) Make the stuffing by mixing all the stuffing ingredients together.
3) Beat the meat with a meat hammer to make it nice and thin (I used some beef escalopes, which were far too thick, and no amount of beating was going to make them thin enough - I really recommend going to a butcher and getting them to slice you some nice, thin beef!)
4) Put some stuffing on each slice of beef, leaving some of it uncovered, and roll up from the covered end. You then need to secure your beef olives - I used toothpicks, but apparently you could also use string. You should have something which looks like this, but, you know, neater, and with the right kind of beef:

5) Fry the beef olives in the olive oil (or bacon fat if you use my method) until nicely browned. Then add the onions, garlic and carrots and fry gently until softened. Add the tomato puree and stir and cook for another minute or so.
6) Add the bay leaf, wine and water, and let it bubble for a few minutes.
7) Turn the heat down, cover the pan, and simmer gently for 1 hour.
8) Five minutes before the end of cooking time, add the peas.

It's probably a good idea to remove the toothpicks before serving, but I had trouble getting mine out!


As with all Maltese recipes, there are lots of different versions. The bragioli we had in Malta had minced beef inside; other recipes use minced veal or pork. Some have the addition of cheese. I liked this bacon and egg variety though, and will definitely make this again, as it was delicious!

Below are some links to some different bragioli recipes, should you wish to try any of these variations:

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Restaurant Review: DC-6 Diner, Coventry

Last night was my first ever visit to the DC-6 Diner at the Airbase in Coventry. This is a unique dining experience and our inner nerds enjoyed it very much.

In case it is not clear from its name and you haven't bother to click on the link above yet, the DC-6 Diner is a converted aeroplane. Here's the view from our window when we were seated:

This eatery pretty much does what it says on the tin: it is a diner and those expecting a gourmet restaurant will be disappointed. Service is polite and attentive; not the kind where you get your wine poured for you, etc., but I felt this is in keeping with the 'diner' label and atmosphere.

Nothing really grabbed me on the starter menu, so I went straight for a main, suspecting that it would be quite filling. I wasn't wrong. I ordered the 'Homemade' beef and ale pie (the word 'homemade' in restaurants always confuses me - surely it is resaurant-made?!), served with chips and vegetables.
The pie was perfectly nice and the chips were ok. I was a bit disappointed with the veg though, as it was rather tasteless. I thought £9.95 was reasonable for the size and quality of the meal, though.

My husband, as is his wont, had the mixed grill:
There is quite a substantial amount of meat hidden under all those chips, including a chicken fillet, a lamb chop, gammon steak, rump steak and a sausage. My husband said all the meat was really good quality and nicely cooked. I tried a bit of his lamb and it was lovely - really juicy and tender and flavourful. We thought this dish was definitely worth the £17.95 it cost.

We also had a lovely bottle of wine to accompany our meal - a Franschhoek Stonebridge Pinotage, at £16.95. We were impressed by the wine selection, particularly by the fact that there is a good and varied selection of mid-range priced wines.

We didn't opt for dessert in the end, as we were so full from our huge meals. I did hear a lady at another table say that her dessert wasn't very nice, but I'd like to try them for myself before I pass judgement.

Overall, then, the food is not gourmet restaurant food, which I didn't expect anyway, but it is nice enough - I was particularly impressed with my husband's mixed grill and the wine list, and I would like to visit again and try one of the steaks, given that they seem to do meat very well! I also felt the food wasn't the be-all and end-all of the experience, which may sound odd, but we had a really fun and interesting evening. As I said at the beginning, it is a unique experience to be able to dine on a DC-6. You could even peer into the cockpit and I liked the way they'd arranged the lighting.