Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Last-ditch attempt at a low fat lunch

I'm wagging uni today because of my migraine of two nights ago. I'm petrified of getting another one, so I'm trying not to over-exert myself. I've been short on sleep recently, and I have a very busy week ahead of me - lots of assignments and tests, as well as a massive ball tomorrow night (ticket already paid for, make-up and hair already booked), a friend's 21st this Saturday night, and I had work last night and tonight. I need to rest up as best I can, and the only activity I could cut down on was class today. I'm staying home, studying, cooking and taking it easy, before going to work tonight.

Also, in the spirit of relaxation, going to the gym is out of the question. Theoretically, I should also avoid caffiene, but we all know that's not going to happen.

"Finally!", I hear you cry, "she's back in the kitchen." Here's what I made for lunch today...

107. Fine Pasta with Crab

I've made this pasta once before, before I started the How to Eat project. I wasn't super-keen on it at the time, (I found it dry and too boozey, even for me). However, I firmly believe that everything deserves a second chance. And besides, I had to make it for this project.

I used tinned crabmeat for this - I know, how horrendous - but I always use tinned, simply because getting fresh (or even frozen) crabmeat involves a drive all the way across town, and I just can not be arsed unless fresh meat is absolutely vital to the dish.

This is an Asian flavoured sauce, with garlic, chilli, coriander, lime and spring onions, simmered in wine and stirred through the pasta and crab meat. In the recipe, Nigella says to simmer the brown meat with the wine and aromatics, before adding the white meat at the end, but I would avoid simmering the meat unless it's fresh - it turns dry and feral otherwise, which is what happened last time I made this. Ooh, one more thing, I'd advise using less wine than she stipulates, (I used the remnants of a bottle in the fridge, which ended up being about half, and made up the volume with water). This prevents a too-intense inhalation of alcohol when eating.

It was heaps better this time. I'd definitely be making it again, and soon! As a bonus, in making this I used up loads of the herbs that were perilously close to dying in my fridge. It's a bit fiddly to make (lots of chopping), but not difficult. It's similar in a way, to Nigella's Linguine with Chilli, Crab and Watercress from Forever Summer, which I've made countless times and is one of my absolute favourites. This is a good, low-fat alternative to that one, but no less delicious for it.

Low-fat, delicious, simple, elegant enough to share, but casual enough to eat in front of the TV. All boxes ticked!

Dredge with dried chilli flakes for absolute perfection!

Monday, August 29, 2005

No new recipe, just a huge fucking headache... OW!

I have to apologise once again for no new recipe tonight - I was all fired up to cook, and had planned to do a low-fat crab pasta. But on the way home from uni today I got a terrible migraine, and had to lie down for an hour. Honestly, I think it was mild on the scale of how these things go, but I've never had one before, so it was totally new for me, and absolutely shit. (I didn't realise it was a migraine until afterwards, when I googled it to make sure).

Thank goodness the parentals were totally understanding, and Mum whipped up some rice, some turmeric chicken drumsticks and a celery and onion omelette.

I wrote about the migraine on my other blog, and some of the things that can apparently trigger migranes are stress, physical exhaustion or certain foods. I'm not super-stressed (I probably should be, but I've learnt to block out the nagging voice in my head that says I shoud study), and I was quite exhausted today, so maybe that's it. I hope to God that it's not a result of any food I've been eating. I was thinking it could be the bacon which I've recently come back to after a six year break from all things piggy... but then I've been eating pork in small doses for the past few weeks and I've been fine. Ooh, ooh ooh! It could be those Brazillian Rechendo Coco biscuits I ate yesterday (but I hope not, because they were insaaanely delicious). DG sent them to me in a swap box, and I ate three of them in as many minutes. (Keep checking the other cooking blog, Sarah Cooks for details of the swap box, which will come once I've eaten my way through it, hehe). These Rechendo Coco things are like Oreos, but with a little Aztec man's face embossed on the side, and with coconut-flavoured filling instead of ordinary cream. Soooo good. Dame mas Rechendo Coco!

I have an economics problem set to do and a marketing presentation to work on... but I think first a cup of tea and another relaxingly hilarious episode of I'm Alan Partridge is in order.

Where did she go?

Apologies for the slight break in recipes - I've been so knackered and busy (new job, studying, cooking in advance, going out, season 2 of I'm Alan Partridge), that come dinner time I couldn't even contemplate opening up my How to Eat and tackling a brand new recipe.

For the past couple of days, I've been living off the leftovers of the half coq-au-vin, eating out, and improvising dinners based on previous Low Fat recipes and what is lurking in my fridge.

For instance, on Thursday night, I made some stir-fried vegetables, (stir fried in Nigella's fat free way) and microwaved some grilled chicken that Dad had made for lunch.

And last night, whilst I was making some Venison in White Wine (stay tuned, it's going to be lunch on Thursday), I whipped up some soba for dinner. Soba with spinach, coriander, spring onions, shiitake mushrooms, seven-spice chilli powder and lots of bottled sukiyaki sauce. Delicious.

And by the way, whilst this food all looks very virtuous, I'm afraid that my "low-fat" eating plan has all but been thrown out the window. There's a surprising amount of chocolate lurking around my house. (Actually, my brother and father leave packets of chocolate and chips lying around the TV room for easy access as well...). And check out for some more evidence of crap I've been eating out of home. But I did go to the gym four times last week. And I probably should try to make the last three days of the month properly low fat...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Purple Rain

I did a lot of cooking last night. I made a half coq-au-vin, some beetroot soup and chargrilled some oil-free red peppers for fatless future snacking. I was up ‘til 2 am last night, and was absolutely buggered today. Mind you, I didn’t study at all last night, I was just cooking. I… am an idiot.

105. Beetroot Soup
106. Half Coq-au-vin

Both the beetroot soup and the stew are designed to be made in advance, and reheated as desired. I actually just made these recipes for the sake of it, without any concrete idea as to when we’d eat them. But when I opened the stew pot and saw the purple shade, I just knew that we had to eat it as soon as possible, with the (also purple) beetroot soup I’d just made.

To make the beetroot soup, you have to boil some beetroot in lots of water for a couple of hours until tender, then drain them. Once they’ve cooled a bit, you then peel off the skins and blend them with Dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar, adding enough of the (now deep, deep red) cooking water to make it soupy. I had to add quite a bit of water to get a decent texture.

Beet soup in blender

The half coq-au-vin, (which I presume is called “half” because it’s reduced fat) is just an ordinary stew, and now that I’ve made a few stews, I’ve got into the swing of it. In general, it seems that you make stews by browning some meat, cooking up onions, carrots and/or celery, with herbs and spices, before re-adding the browned meat and some liquid. Then it’s just a matter of letting it cook slowly for an hour or more.

This one is actually very similar in flavour to the braised pheasant I made recently – they both contain red wine, bacon, onions, mushrooms and onions – but the half-coq au vin is heaps nicer! The liquid in question is a mixture of chicken stock and some reduced red wine (boiled up with various herbs), which gives an insanely purple shade to the chicken.

Purple Coq 1

Once it’s had its hour on the stove, Nigella says to heat some brandy in a ladle over a flame, let it ignite, and stir it into the stew. How fun! I love doing this kind of stuff. Once upon a time I would have found this step intimidating, but not anymore. I used to do this all the time at my old (crap) job, when I was a crepe flambeuse extraordinaire. I've left that job, but the pyromania hasn't left me.

And I’m not ashamed to admit (although perhaps I should be) that last night, when I opened the pot, the first words that popped out of my mouth were, “Oh my God! Look at that purple coq!”

This, of course, opened the floodgates for an onslaught of jokes. For example... today at uni with my mates…

“Hey, guess what I’m eating tonight!”
“Mmm… can’t wait to eat that purple coq.”
“I hope the coq tastes alright.”

… and so on. Well, I thought it was funny. And the stew gets more purple as it sits.

How purple!

So tonight when I came home, I didn’t really have to do any cooking at all. I just put some rice in the rice cooker, put the pots on the stove, and sat back to watch Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge.

The stew was good – salty and winey and, as Nigella says, “proper and comforting and old-fashioned”.

We weren’t super-crazy about the soup. I thought it was alright, but not spectacular. It did have a smooth texture and nicely mild beetroot taste, but I think we just don’t like beetroot. There are three beetroot recipes in the Low Fat chapter, and none of them have been fab. They were ok, but they’re definitely on the list of must-repeat-soon-recipes.

Beetroot soup - served with o% fat yogurt

Coq on plate

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Tuesday Night Dinner - Low carbohydrate, Low fat AND Nutritious

Perfect! Especially seeing as I needed to balance out the MSG-filled noodles I had for lunch at uni, and the Lindt milk chocolate I had in the afternoon. The chocolate came free with the latest issue of Delicious, and my logic dictates that if food is free, it can’t be bad for you! Hmmm… dubious. However, I did go to the gym today, and twice in the two days before that. So hopefully this will tip the scales in my favour, literally speaking.

103. Cauliflower with Cumin
104. Cambodian Hot and Sour Beef Salad

Nigella’s super-simple Cauliflower with Cumin is more of a suggestion than a recipe – all it takes is two ingredients, and twenty minutes in the oven. Like the braised fennel, this low-fat, highly flavoured way of preparing cauliflower is aimed at preventing the potentially repetitive boredom of a restricted diet. She says that “this is the best way to eat cauliflower, diet or no diet”, and having tasted it, in all its charred and spiced glory, I’m inclined to agree with her.

Cauliflower in Cumin

Now, for the salad.

Take one bowl of dressing…

Dressing – fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, shallots and chillies

…and some grilled, thinly sliced steak…


…mix through a packet of supermarket salad leaves…

…and Bob’s your uncle!

This salad was absolutely ace! My dad had to keep putting his fork down to praise it. “This is great. Very delicious. Very tasty.”

Sunday, August 21, 2005

My 100th Recipe!

When I invited my friends Adri, Bernard and An over for dinner last night, I knew there would be a few requirements...

No onions, no fried onions, no western-style pork, no lamb, no beef, no "meat that smells", no coriander, no capsicum, no spring onions, no shallots, no "weird Middle-Eastern food", nothing "strange or fancy"

...what on earth was I going to cook for them?

I spent a couple of days reading through my How to Eat, and finally chose the most normal, simple, unadventurous menu I could find.


Tarragon French roast chicken
German leeks and wine, rice, peas and mangetouts
Lemon Pie

I did make a few small adjustments to the menu, mainly because of ingredient sourcing issues... and also scaled everything down (apart from the pie) for 6 people.


French Roast Chicken
German Leeks and Noilly Prat
Sugar Snaps and Peas
Lemon Pie

100. Lemon Pie

I made the pastry for this the night before, and let it sit, glad wrapped in the fridge until Saturday afternoon. The lemon filling also has to be started in advance - zest and slice some lemons, mix with sugar, and leave it in the fridge overnight. When you're ready to bake (and it can be eaten "hot, warm or cold"), you just have to roll out the pastry, add some eggs to the lemons, assemble the pie and shove it in the oven.

Pie filling

You know, this pastry was an absolute nightmare to roll out - it kept cracking on me, and I had to scrunch it up and start again, like, a million times. Maybe it was just too cold. But I persevered, rolled it out as best I could, and roughly mended the few cracks with the excess. During baking, some of the sugary-lemon filling overflowed and dripped down the sides. Luckily I'd anticipated this and had chucked a tray in the oven as well to catch the (rapidly bubbling and blackening) drips.

Lemon Pie - My 100th Recipe, "Well, I'm going for the rustic look, aren't I?"

About the chickens - I went to the supermarket on Saturday afternoon (before baking the pie), only to find that there's no bloody tarragon in the shops!! The grocer said it's been too cold to grow it. But I'd already bought the chickens and everything else! I thought, "Oh fuck it, we'll have the chicken anyway", and brazenly cooked the chickens as stated in the recipe, but without the tarragon. So, you smear a mixture of butter, sherry and pepper onto the breasts of the chickens (this is where you'd add the tarragon), and roast them over stock. As Nigella says, "Pour... stock into the bottom half of a roasting pan which has a grid that fits over, on which you can sit the chickens".

"French Roast Chicken", not "Tarragon French Roast Chicken". (And I'm going to make it again, properly, once I can get my hands on some bloody tarragon).

Now, the side dishes.

101. Foolproof Rice

I know I don't really need a recipe for rice, as I've got a rice cooker. But, a recipe is a recipe, so I was obliged to try rice the Nigella way. Her method's really weird - she says to turn the rice in some melted butter in a pan first, then to add the same volume of water to rice (normally I'd go double), and cook it on a super-low heat for, like, 30 minutes. It turned out fine, but strange. It was that bizzare Western-style rice which is really dry and separate, as opposed to being soft and clumpy, like normal. Anyway, I'm sticking to the rice cooker from now on.

102. German Leeks and Wine

The leeks are easy - you slice them into logs, and turn in butter in a pan. Then you pour some wine over (I used Noilly Prat because I didn't want to break into Dad's wine collection), and simmer until tender.

Nigella also suggests mangetouts and peas, but mangetouts were $12 a kilo. Yeah right!! I used sugar snaps instead, and just boiled them briefly with the ordinary peas.

My friends were running a bit late, so I just started the leeks and peas when they arrived. Everything else was ready, and able to sit around without going bad.

Foolproof rice, peas, German Leeks and Wine

I can't carve, and normally I get Mum to do it, but she was watching Midsummer Murders or something like that, so I had to try it myself. Chicken cooked this way is, in fact, so tender, that it is very easy to clumsily pull apart with a kitchen knife and tongs. And it tastes great! So juicy and tender, with the butter giving a wonderfully crisp skin.

My attempt at carving

An loves chicken fat

So yes, a fab dinner. All the elements (peas, leeks, chicken, rice) go together wonderfully, and are satisfying, but not bloating (which is a danger of menus in Nigella quantities).

And dessert...

Ta Da!

This is a gooooooood pie. The pastry is both crunchy and cakey (which I love!) and the filling is strongly lemony (which Adri loves). It was very sharp, and after taking a bite, we realised we desperately needed cream to go with. I didn't have any, so pulled a carton of Streets Blue Ribbon Vanilla Ice-cream out of the freezer, and dessert was saved. As Nigella says, it is a bit of a mess to cut up and serve, but it's so worth it! It's a damn tasty pie.

Everyone (apart from An, who's not into this sort of thing) had second helpings of my pie. Yay!

Adri & Bernard enjoying Pie


Friday, August 19, 2005

Paris via Tokyo

As we can see from all my recent posts, my Low-Fat August hasn't been quite as low fat as I'd originally intended. But what I'm trying to take from the Low Fat chapter is not just the recipes, but also the principles for making quick, delicious, low calorie meals. This way I'll have a good repertoire of healthy dishes which I can turn to for quick midweek lunches and dinners, when I don't feel like tackling a brand-new recipe, and don't want anything too rich or fattening. Otherwise it'd be stuff like creamy pastas, fried fishcakes, and toasted cheese sandwiches every other night. Lovely, but deadly for the waistline!

For instance, last night I did the mushroom udon soup again, and slurped it up hungrily whilst at the computer. Much better than a take-away pizza!

I'm also in the process of making, again, the beef braised in beer, and this time in double quantities. We loved it so much! I think it could only be a good thing to have a hearty, tasty, low-fat stew, individually portioned, frozen, and ready to go. I've also got some vegetable curry in vegetable sauce in the freezer. (Actually, stay tuned for photos of my bulging freezer...)

Keeping in mind Nigella's principles of low fat eating, here's what I made for dinner tonight.

98. Braised Fennel
99. Poisson au Poivre

One of the tricks to sticking to low-fat eating, apparently, is to include lots of variety so you don't get bored. We don't eat, or even like fennel in the normal run of things, (you should have seen the look on my parents' faces when I told them what we were going to eat - and I'm not hot for it either), but this was divine! The fennel in this dish is sliced thinly, and cooked with a bit of stock in the oven. And it was great - the thin slicing and long cooking made it soft and tender, without that feral, strong aniseed flavour that undercooked or raw fennel has. Even the parentals were impressed with this!

Braised Fennel

The poisson au poivre is "a juicy piscine take on the bifteck bistro original". You can use any of the meatier fish varieties (tuna, swordfish, marlin, mahi-mahi etc), and then press crushed black pepper on the sides (which I crushed myself in a pestle and mortar), before grilling on a non-oiled griddle. I used swordfish, because tuna was strangely unavailable anywhere today.

Poisson au Poivre

As a side dish, I chose to do soba noodles (hence the "Paris via Tokyo" title of this post). Obviously, Nigella's Low Fat chapter is awash with soba, as is my general diet, whether or not I want to lose weight. I cooked them, tossed them through some bottled sukiyaki sauce, and sprinkled coriander over. This was basically the tasty beet greens with buckwheat noodles but without the feral beet greens to ruin the noodles. Again, having noodles tonight was about variety - we'd typically eat plain steamed rice as a side dish.

Soba noodles

This was a brilliant dinner. Bizzare cross-cultural mishmashes and connotations of tacky 80's fusion aside, the food was seriously good. The spicily hot fish contrasted well against the more subdued flavour of the noodles, as did the mildly-flavoured fennel. The meal overall was satisfyingly substantial, high in nutrients, low in fat and tasty. What more could you ask for?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Pink things

Tonight I tried yet another of Nigella’s three beetroot recipes from the Low Fat chapter. Given that we had a decent amount of last night’s shredded beetroot salad left over, we ate that as well. And seeing that both items were pink, I thought we should have a pink dessert as well (the rhubarb ice-cream that I made ten days ago). Who cares about the fat content? This meal was all about the aesthetic, and when it comes to bright colours, for me, too much is never enough.

97. Beet greens with buckwheat noodles

This dish is undemanding and stress-free – you cook up some chopped beet greens (which look just like rhubarb) in a pan, and toss in boiled soba noodles with bottled sukiyaki sauce. The noodles turn a fantastic shade of magenta.

Beet greens with buckwheat noodles

We’d never tried beet greens before, and now that we have, I can’t say we’re mad about them. The leaves are ok, but the stems (even the little, thin ones) have this really weird salty taste and feral woodsy texture. In fact, we ended up just picking out all the noodles and leaving most of the beet greens on our plates.

Onto dessert – remember when I made the rhubarb ice-cream? I loved the mixture so much I had a good ten minutes of serious, concentrated licking – no bowl, utensil or beater was safe. But I think something went wrong in the churning process, as the final result was slightly icy. Tasty, but icily hard. Perhaps a 40 minute period of ripening in the fridge would have helped, but there was no way we were going to wait that long. I served it with some leftover chocolate sauce (from the recipe for Poires Belle Hélène), which I made to go with homemade vanilla ice-cream seven weeks ago. And just to let you know, it was still good. So if you ever make this chocolate sauce, and for some reason, don’t finish it immediately, an extended stint in the fridge will do it no harm at all.

Ice cream

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Birds and Beets

I got the key items for tonight’s dinner from local merchants –the organic grocer around the corner supplied the beetroot, whilst Rendinas’ Butchery supplied the birds. They had no “poussin”, so I got the only other mini-birds they had, “spatchcocks”. I suspect they’re the same thing, actually. A poussin by any other name…

95. Shredded Beetroot Salad with Yogurt (Low Fat)
96. Roast Poussin with Garlic and Shallots (Feeding Babies and Small Children)

The star of this meal is the beetroot salad – Nigella suggests it to go with any roasted little bird, a recipe for which I found in the Feeding Babies and Small Children chapter. I adapted the recipe to be low-fat friendly by simply leaving out the oil and butter. Nigella includes a poussin recipe in the kids’ chapter, because she says they’re the perfect size for a child to eat by him or herself – this must mean that poussins are smaller than spatchcocks, or her children have large appetites. Either way, we were happy with the quantities!

This is a surprisingly elegant supper, given how simple it is to prepare. When I came home from yoga, I shoved the little spatchcocks in the oven with some unpeeled garlic and shallots. Whilst they were roasting, I did the salad. The salad is simply mint and coriander, chopped in a processor, mixed with peeled and grated beetroot (also done in the processor), and lemon juice. To serve, you place the large mound of beetroot on a plate, make a well in the centre and pour some fat-free yogurt in. Delicious. I wore rubber gloves to deal with the beetroot, so my hands were quite well protected from unsightly red stains. However, it was a different story for the benches, my utensils, the taps, the kitchen drawers…

Roast Spatchcock with garlic and shallots, Beet salad on the side

Shredded Beetroot Salad with Yogurt - what gorgeous, vibrant colours!

A note on quantities – I found that one 500 gram spatchcock per person was just right. The salad, on the other hand, makes an incredibly vast quantity (not necessarily a bad thing, I love its fresh and tangy crunchiness). The recipe says 725 grams of beet serves two people, with leftovers. I used about 800 grams, and the three of us only got halfway through it! Ah, the crazy quantities that exist in Nigella-land...

Monday, August 15, 2005

What does Nigella suggest for dinner?

Happy happy joy joy, today was the first day in about a week that I’ve actually had a proper low-fat day! The past week or so has seen a barrage of reasons (or excuses) to abandon my so-called period of restraint – my weekly allotted full-fat meal plus pudding; the need to use up the leftovers of said full-fat meal; going out too much; my inordinate passion for biscuits; an encounter with a platter of deep-fried cheese at a party (now really, that’s just cruel); a hangover or two; and… er… women’s troubles.

But today there was none of that – just an ordinary day full of delicious, light and nourishing food. Here’s what I ate today! (With apologies for coming over all Bridget Jones…)

Soy and linseed toast with vegemite and pear jam, 1 glass low-fat soy milk
1 skinny latté
1 Falafel salad roll
1 skinny latté, 1 banana
Dinner (see below)
Black tea with Seville orange juice, 1 apple

93. Sugar-Spiced Salmon with Chinese Hot Mustard
94. Vegetables with Ginger and Garlic

Sugar-Spiced Salmon with Chinese Hot Mustard and Vegetables

Both these recipes are suggestions from the beginning of the Low Fat chapter. The salmon comes from an American book called Pacifica Blue Plates by Neil Stuart, and gives an unusual taste and texture to a rather common fish. The salmon fillets are dredged in a mixture of spices (ginger, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, mustard powder), sugar and salt, and grilled. The spice mixture forms a lovely crusty coating on the fish, and is sweet, salty and hot all at the same time. The “Chinese Hot Mustard” sauce is water, mustard powder and sugar. It tastes nice, and complements the salmon well, but I prefer the mustard sauce which accompanies the salmon in Nigella BitesTemplefood chapter. (That one is mustard powder, water, ginger and soy sauce – and it’s lovely).

For the vegetables, it’s more the method than the exact ingredients that are important here. Nigella’s fat-free method of cooking vegetables is a mixture of stir-frying and steaming – heat some stock, ginger, garlic and spring onions in a wok before adding vegetables and stirring until cooked. Ransacking my fridge, I used carrots, broccoli (no bugs in it this time!), red capsicum, and sugar snap peas. This is a really fantastic, flavourful way to cook vegetables, retaining their nutrients, texture and colour. I highly recommend that you try it.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Bangers and Mash

Guess what was waiting in the mail for me when I woke up this morning? It was a letter from a cinema, informing me that I’d gotten a job there!! (I had an interview on Wednesday). Haha! I’ve only been “unemployed” for two weeks! I have paid induction training tomorrow – which is when I was planning on making this lunch. But news of this new job threw my plans into chaos. See, I’ve got this training thing on Saturday, my brother is working tonight, and my dad’s working all weekend. So when, when, when would we fit in these sausages? Luckily, after a bit of tricky negotiation, we managed to find a bare forty-five minutes when we’d be all free, and all together. Tonight, 6pm on the dot, before Daniel had to leave for work at 6:45. PHEW.

But I still wanted to go shopping in the afternoon!
So I had to get my ass in gear.


90. Red Wine, Cumin and Onion Gravy
91. Seville Orange Cream
92. Shortbread

By the way, I halved quantities for everything except the shortbread. (I love my biscuits, I do).

I started off baking the Seville orange cream (I’d made the mixture a couple of days earlier and left it sitting in the fridge to deepen the flavour), whilst I prepared the shortbread. The Seville orange cream (actually lemon cream, but I substituted oranges) is a mixture of juice, zest, sugar, double cream and eggs, which you mix together. As for the shortbread, in her recipe, Nigella says just to chuck everything in a processor, and then shape it into a log, refrigerate it, and slice it up. I actually found the mixture very difficult to work with, as it was very crumbly. I would have been better off just pressing it into a mould.

Whilst that was happening, I had a shower, and then made the vegetable miso broth for lunch. After we ate it, I took a bus to the city, tried on some outfits at Miss Sixty (gorgeous, but WAY out of my price range), then rushed home and started on the dinner part of dinner.

So, boiled up some potatoes, and shunted the sausages in the oven. I got four plain beef sausages (the thin ones), and four pork, bacon and leek ones (the fat ones). Then I did the gravy. I used a mixture of red and brown onions (because that is what I had), and it was absolutely fantastic! It was thicker than I expected, and looked more like an onion jam, than a gravy. But it was great. I know Nigella quantities are usually quite large, but we could have done with more gravy – double, triple even!

When the sausages were nearly done, I mashed the potatoes with a generous amount of butter and cream, and dinner was done!

Red onion and cumin gravy

Sausages mash and gravy – By the way, I prefer the long and thin (beef) sausages, because the thick (pork, bacon and leek) ones were a bit dry.

Seville Orange Cream, Shortbread

The texture of the orange cream (baked in a bain marie) is lovely – set on the top, and a thicker, softer crème below. I absolutely adore the flavour of Seville oranges, but be warned, they are very tart. I’d have done well to increase the sugar content of this one. (Even though I usually find Nigella’s desserts on the sweet side anyway). I’d definitely want to make this again. My brother especially thought it tasted wonderful.

The shortbread wasn’t fabulous – they smelled great, but were quite dry (which means, I think, I overbaked them). My mum actually said, “I make better shortbread”. Aww!

Mum had a latté with hers, and I had an espresso. Very Euro-chic.

Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup!

89. Vegetable Miso Broth

Nigella says she eats this the most often out of all her low-fat eating. And I can see why – it’s easy, tasty, and fat free. I like it because it’s a good way to get a lot of veggies (and therefore vitamins, antioxidants and all that sort of good stuff) in your system quickly.

Boil some vegetables (turnips, carrots, broccoli, zucchini, sugar snap peas, bok choy) in water, then drain…

Steaming Vegies - check out the blue colander

…then pour over miso broth – vegetable stock with some miso paste mixed in. I made this for three of us, and didn’t have a bowl big enough for both vegetables and broth, so I just left them separate on the table and let people make it themselves. We had them with some lovely bread rolls that my dad got this morning.

Miso broth in the yellow bowl, bread in the background, vegies in the middle, coriander on the side

I did have one, teensy-weensy little problem with this though. Um… it’s totally not the fault of the recipe, and it’s all from my own laziness… but, um… well… I didn’t wash the broccoli enough, and there were bugs in it! So, we had a few bugs floating around in our bowls. FERAL! I felt so bad, and my brother was totally grossed out. After we made that delightful discovery, I picked all of the broccoli out of the boiled vegetables, and the rest of the veggies were edible, so it wasn’t a total waste. At least I didn’t mix the broth with the vegetables – then I would have had to chuck everything out! We’ve got lots of the delicious and bug-free broth left over, so I might have a go again tomorrow – with CLEAN vegetables this time!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Low-Fat Stew

88. Beef Braised in Beer

I made this stew last night for lunch today. It's from the Low Fat chapter, and is just wonderful - warm and nourishing and comforting, but not heavy or stodgy. I find it very difficult to find low-fat food that I actually feel like eating in winter (I normally go for salads, fresh vegetables and so on when trying to lose weight), but this was perfect.

It's really simple too, with no spices except for mustard powder. All the flavour comes from the prunes, carrots, onion and beef, which are browned on the stove, and then slowly cooked in the oven. I actually didn't realise that the prunes were not stoned, so ended up picking most of them out whilst I reheated it on the stove today.

Beef braised in beer

Nigella says it makes six servings, but even with rice on the side, we only got five. That was one for each of us, with enough leftover for an extra serving.

Daniel: Can I take the rest of this to work tonight?

I like it so much, I think I'll make some more, very soon!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Not exactly a recipe, but...

This is what I did with the leftover pheasant stew from Saturday. There's another pheasant stew in How to Eat, which is practically the same as the one I did on Saturday, and Nigella suggests making pasta with the leftovers of that one. With that in mind, a couple of nights ago I ripped the meat from the bones, discarded the bones, and put half of the sauce and meat in the freezer, and left half in the fridge for tonight. So tonight, all I had to do was cook pasta - fettucine - and toss it through the wobbly, gelatinous, intensely flavoured sauce.

It's pretty similar (in method) to the pasta with butter and stock cube juices, but because of the meat, mushrooms, bacon and onions, it's more of a meal. Actually, we preferred this pasta to the pheasant stew itself - with the pheasant all in bite-sized pieces, you barely noticed its toughness.

Fettucine with braised pheasant, mushrooms and bacon

And PS - this is definitely not Low-Fat, but I really think it's a sin to waste food.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Mushroom Udon Soup

Did anyone else notice how bloody cold it was today? Apparently tomorrow it's going to be even worse. And of course, I decided to wear a skirt and heels to uni today, with a pathetically thin coat. Silly, silly, silly. All I could think of all day was coming home to a nice hot bowl of soup...

87. Mushroom Udon Soup

I've actually been putting off making this one, delicious as it sounds, because Nigella prefaces the recipe by saying that it's "the sort of supper I might make myself to get back on track if I've gone out and had pig's trotter - fat, cartilage and all - with mashed potato for lunch". This made me think that the soup would be too light for a proper meal, and would ultimately result in us raiding the snack cupboard for biscuits and chips later in the night.

How wrong I was. It's a Nigella recipe, there's no way in hell it wouldn't fill you up. We were all very satisfied, and warmed through and through. I just remembered, actually, the last time I made a noodle soup was for dinner after wearing a skirt out on a 15 degree day. Hah.

It tasted fantastic - the meaty mushrooms, the slippery noodles, the salty soup... and, it was simplicity itself to make - it only took about 20 minutes in total. The soup base is a mix of the dried shitake mushroom soaking water mixed with dashi powder, some soy sauce and sesame oil. Then you chuck in the mushrooms and udon noodles, and boil it until cooked. Sprinkle with coriander and nanami togarashi. Easy.

Fancy some slurping?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Restrain yourself!

Today was the day of my hands smelling feral. Late last night, I made a triple quantity of Seaweed and Noodle Salad, so that I could have a stash in the fridge for mid-week consumption.

84. Seaweed and Noodle Salad

This salad is made from cold, cooked soba noodles, with some seaweed (Nigella says wakame and arame, but we only had wakame) and various Japanese sauces tossed through. I tossed it together with my hands, as I usually do, but then had a super-strong sesame oil smell on my hands for ages. Yurgh!

Here's my lunch. (Yes, I took my camera with me to uni! And looked like a total gimp photographing my lunch, hehe). I ate it just before a Japanese class, appropriately enough! It's very much the type of thing I'd regularly make for myself to eat. We always have all the ingredients in the pantry, and I've made it, or versions of it, many times before. It's salty, slippery, cold, grainily nutritious and totally slurpable. In other words, brilliant!

On the bus home, I suddenly realised that I wanted something hot and hearty and strongly flavoured and decidedly non-Asian. (I mean, I do love noodles and broths and grilled fish, but sometimes a girl needs a break!) And I remembered... Nigella has a low-fat risotto! Yay!

85. Restrained Mushroom Risotto
86. Roast Garlic and Lemon Dressing

On the way from the bus stop to my house, I bought some mushrooms (dried porcini, Swiss brown, button) from our local greengrocer. And when I got home, the first thing I did was make the salad dressing. You have to wrap head of garlic in some foil with a little Noilly Prat, and roast it for an hour. Then after it's cooled a bit, you mix the soft garlic flesh with lemon juice. I squeezed the garlic out of the skin with my hands, and I also tossed the dressing through the leaves with my hands - it's very thick, and you need to use your fingers to coat the leaves evenly. So my hands still smell totally feral.

Garlic and Vermouth Dressing

The risotto is just your ordinary risotto, but with only a small amount of butter and oil, and no cream stirred through at the end. You start by cooking finely chopped onions in a pan, then adding the sliced mushrooms, then the rice. I was kind of worried when I first added the rice, beacuse it looked like there would never be enough rice for all that mushroom. However, throughout the cooking time, the mushrooms do their usual incredible shrinking act, whilst the rice expands voluptuously. Just as I expected, it took much longer to cook (40 minutes of constant stirring) than the recipe says, and needed double the amount of liquid. (Just like when I made the Pea Risotto). I used a Thai Knorr Shiitake Stock Cube, boosted with some dried porcini mushrooms soaking liquid.

It's absolutely gorgeous, full of deep mushroom flavour, and surprisingly creamy thanks to the starch that comes out of the rice.

This one's definitely becoming a regular dinner.

Sunday, August 07, 2005


Can someone please tell me what happened to Low-Fat August? First, there was the compulsive licking of the bowls when I made the rhubarb ice-cream on Friday night...

...then on Saturday, the braised pheasant and pig’s bum for lunch (but technically this is ok, I’ve allowed myself “one full-fat meal and pudding per week”)...

...and then that night, a slice of the chocolate malteaser cake, which I made for my friend Adri’s graduation dinner. I’m ashamed to admit that I had a quite a bit of the icing and the leftover malteasers whilst I was making it, even though I’d been saying earnestly to anyone who’d listen, “I’m not going to eat the any of that cake! I’m being healthy this month!”

...and after the dinner, we went out for a few drinks and then onto a club. When I came home at, like 4am, having had a couple of drinks and nothing to eat for the past six hours, I saw the rest of the Pig's Bum and custard sitting on the kitchen bench...

The perfect amount of custard

...and I ate it before going straight to bed.

DG: omg how orgasmic does that look!


This morning (or afternoon, rather), I woke up, regretfully hungover (partly from the alcohol, but mainly from the food), and determined to have a more virtuous day of eating.

I had one portion of the vegetable curry in vegetable sauce with rice that I made on Friday. And because I had all the ingredients in the fridge, I also made the raita that Nigella suggests to go with. It was very yummy, and comforting because of the warm spiciness and carb-content, but not as calorifically stratospheric as traditional hangover fare (mozzarella in carozza, souvlakis, pancakes etc).

I eased myself into the day with this and an episode of Arrested Development.

Vegie curry, raita and skim-milk coffee

And onto dinner…

82. Salmon marinated in Den Miso (Low Fat)
83. Brown Rice Salad (Low Fat)

As I previously mentioned, I marinated the salmon on Friday night. The marinade is a mixture of miso paste, sugar, sake and mirin, cooked on a medium heat for 20 minutes. The marinade itself is very thick, and difficult to spread on the fish – I was almost ripping its flesh! But after a couple of days steeping, it softens, and a bit of liquid seeps out, so you can spread it on the fish more evenly. All you have to do then, is grill it!

I actually cooked the rice for the brown rice salad (a suggestion in the Low-Fat chapter) in the afternoon, with the intention of having a stash in the fridge for weekday lunches. But after smelling the cooked rice’s delicious, earthy aroma, I realized it would go perfectly with the salmon! To turn cooked brown rice into a salad, Nigella-style, you add soy sauce, mirin and dashi (I just used bottled soba-sauce for ease – it’s the same thing), spring onions, coriander, mint and sugar snap peas.

Brown rice salad

With den miso salmon

This was absolutely delicious! The fish is very strongly flavoured, but it perfectly complemented the plain-tasting rice salad. (You’d need to add a lot of soy if you wanted to eat the rice by itself). I can’t believe I got my family eating brown rice!

Dad: Wait, you say this is low fat?! WOW!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Back to Bacon

This is going to be a long post. So get a cup of tea, and make yourself comfortable before you start reading. Alternatively, you could just scroll down to the pictures of the pudding and start drooling.

Today’s lunch was the “Welcoming January Lunch for 6”, from the Weekend Lunch chapter. Now that I’m not working at the restaurant anymore, my weekend lunches can actually be made on the weekend!

79. Braised Pheasant with Mushroom and Bacon (Cooking in Advance)
80. Pig’s Bum (Weekend Lunch)
81. Real Custard (Basics etc.)


Yesterday we had a fab day shopping at the Prahran Market, where I actually managed to find pheasant! It was a whopping $21 a kilo, so for three birds it came up to $75. YIKES. I also bought baby onions at the market. I got my bacon from Rendinas Butchery, and the rest of the stuff from Safeway. And yesterday afternoon, I got cooking!

Ingredients - bacon, flour, bouquet garni, pheassant pieces, red wine, chicken stock, mushrooms, garlic and baby onions.

Making this stew is nothing too taxing; it’s similar to all the other stews in the book. Brown the meat, cook the mushrooms, then the onions, then the bacon. Add some flour, then wine and stock, before piling all the ingredients back into the pot, and baking for an hour or so. I had some issues getting everything to fit in the pot, and not all the bird was covered with liquid – which I think is why it turned out a bit tough.

After it cooked, I had a look at it, and I could barely see any sauce because it was covered in a thick layer of oil. So I stashed it in the fridge overnight, with the aim of scraping it off the next day.


This morning, when I started cooking, the first thing I did was start on the pudding. Nigella made up the recipe from a description that this Antony Worral Thompson bloke gave a steamed pudding he’d had at school, which he’d nicknamed Pig’s Bum. It is a rhubarb pudding, one of those traditional steamed English pudding-type things that you keep hearing about from Delia, and in Harry Potter and Malory Towers, but never actually bother making. (Well, I’ve never made one before). You make the batter in a processor, with the ingredients and proportions the same as a Victoria Sponge, and add 5 tablespoons of rhubarb puree (3 sticks, boiled in water and sugar for about 5 minutes). It turns this bizarre pallid purple shade. But Nigella’s right, the raw mixture does taste GOOD.

Mixture in pudding basin.

I actually didn’t have to go out and buy a pudding basin – I bought a Baker’s Secret 2L pudding basin a couple of years ago, with the intention of making Christmas pudding. The Christmas pudding never materialized, and the basin’s been sitting sadly in my drawer since then. It’s non-stick, and has this fab tight-fitting lid, so there’s no need to faff around with foil or string or such stuff. (I did butter the tin though, as I definitely did not want it to stick).

Pudding Basin in pot

It needs to boil for two and a half hours. In the meantime, I had a shower and then got on with the rest of lunch.

Back to the pheasant. Here’s what it looked like when I took it out of the fridge and opened it…

Me: Aw yes! Solid Fat!

A weird thing to yell out, don’t you think? Anyway, I scraped as much as I could off and into a bowl. Have a look.


Then it went in the oven to reheat, at 180C, for half an hour. In this time, I made some burghal to go with. It just needs to be cooked like rice, that is to say, the absorption method. You stir the wheat through some melted butter in a pan, pour over an equal volume of water, let it boil, cover it tightly and let it cook on a low heat for 30 minutes. Or in my case, until I could smell it burning on the bottom of the pan, at which point I turned off the heat.

So, whilst the pudding was in the steamer, the pheasant was in the oven, and the burghal was on the hob, I made the custard! (Yes, three pans on the hob at once – I am crazy). I did get a nice steam-facial from the pudding pot, though. Ah, I love making custard now – I’ve got the hang of it! I don’t even need to consult the recipe (Real Custard from the Basics etc. chapter) any more. I scaled down the quantities – 300ml cream instead of 500ml. In the wide pot that I used, it thickened quickly and easily, and got even more voluptuously creamy as it cooled in the sink. FYI, you get 300ml custard from 300ml cream. I know because I poured my custard into a measuring jug to serve it.

Lunch! The pheasant – tasted OK. We wouldn’t rave about it. In fact, we were all surprisingly silent eating it. The taste of the gravy was nice, but the birds were a bit dry. Also, the gravy was well thin. The bulghar was a great touch though, a good change from rice or mashed potatoes, and not as stodgy.

Braised Pheasant - Bulgar in the background

One plate

Daniel: I might have some of this for dinner. This stuff’s good…pointing at bulghar. And thanks for breaking the no-bacon thing.

By the way, I was a bit nonplussed by the bacon. It’s been over six years since I’ve knowingly eaten any pork product. It wasn’t good, it wasn’t crap. No big deal. But actually, I did feel slightly nauseous straight after the meal as we were cleaning up together and waiting for the pudding to cook, but I danced it off listening to Junior Senior. I can’t say that I’d be desperate for a ham sandwich or some crackling anytime soon.

Now we get to the good part – PUDDING!


Pig's Bum and Custard - I actually thought about serving it with the Rhubarb Ice-cream I made last night, but I was informed by my friend in England that it would be a crime to have a steamed pudding without custard.

This pudding is absolutely amazing! The silence that descended during lunch suddenly lifted…

Daniel: This smells great! I want to eat it. Hurry up with the photos.
Me: This doesn’t really look like a pig’s bum
Daniel: Yes it does, look at the shape. Pat it.

Pig's Bum

One portion of Pig's Bum

I can't tell you how lovely this pudding was. Whilst it was cooking, all steamy and clattery, I couldn't help but think, "Oh god, really, who could be arsed to make puddings like this?", but once you take a bite of the hot and fragrant pudding, drowned in the cold custard, it all makes perfect, delicious sense.

Daniel: This is fantastic. This is the shit. You should sell this.

Mum and Dad also agreed. Whilst we were eating, my dad's friend Bill popped by, and we gave him a piece. "No custard thanks, I'm not a custard fan". Despite the protestations of my family, "But she made it from scratch! It's good!", he still declined. He ate his first piece of pudding, and loved it so much that he asked for another piece. "You know what, that piece was so good I might have some custard with my second piece." Score!

Look at that custard! Damn straight I can make custard now!

This is a seriously good recipe.