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Hallouminize! Low Carb Cheese Love

21 Jul

What started as a chaste taste in a local Greek restaurant quickly became an obsession.  Worryingly, after a while I became the single white female… of Halloumi cheese!  After the first time I tried this cheese, I loved and purchased it so much that after a point there was just always some in my fridge and I worried when I came close to running out.  And like many of the worlds relationships, familiarity bred contempt and we simply lost touch.

But on reflection of the good times and what I might be missing, am back in love again.  Halloumi, a traditional Cypriot cheese, is a really great cheese, especially for low carb – especially handy if you are including a ‘guest cheese’ in your weekly fridge line up – try it! This from its Wikipedia entry:

Halloumi cheese originated in Cyprusand was initially made during the Medieval Byzantine period, subsequently gaining popularity throughout the rest of the Middle East region. Industrial halloumi contains more cow’s milk than goat and sheep milk. This reduces the cost but changes the taste and the grilling properties.  The cheese is white, with a distinctive layered texture, similar to mozzarella, and has a salty flavour. It is stored in its natural juices with salt-water, and can keep for up to a year if frozen below −18 °C (0 °F) and defrosted to +4 °C (39 °F) for sale at supermarkets. It is often garnished with mint to add to the taste. Traditionally, the mint leaves were used as a preservative, the use serendipitously discovered when the fresh Halloumi was kept wrapped for freshness and flavour from the mint leaves. Hence, if you look closely, many packaged Halloumi will have bits of mint leaf on the surface of the cheese.

As  I have said before, I do love savoury foods and am not averse to the pretty salty flavour of this cheese from the sat water in which it is stored.  But its an amazingly versatile cheese choice in my opinion because: 1) It doesn’t melt when cooking like most cheeses, 2) you don’t get the cheese overload you might anticipate if you’re not normally a lover of cheese on its own as a snack and 3) eating it in its ‘raw’ and ‘cooked’ state provide very different eating experiences – and as a result provide an element of variety often much missed in low carb eating.  Some doubters will tell you that a major downside is the way it feels ‘squeaky’ on your teeth (don’t panic! you need to taste it just to see what that means!) – but take it from me, the girl whose friends laugh at her because of her aversion to the squeak sound of cotton wool rubbing together (urrgghh) – this is not a problem.

You will buy a pack, such as this (mine purchased at my local supermarket, but know it’s widely available (NOTE you can usually buy both ‘normal’ and ‘light versions’.  A search on mysupermarket revealed that in a comparison between the two versions I find at my local Sainsburys, the light version (1g per 100g) beats the normal version (2.4g per 100g) for carbs. But as have said before, I don’t believe in obsessively counting and with a negligible difference, you might as well choose the normal version!

So here are two ways of incorporating this into your low carb lifestyle, both are hardly recipes because they require so little prep.  Let me know if you become as much of a fan as I am! A great low carb addition to your fridge…

1) The ‘raw’ way:

  • Open pack (seems a bit banal to state this as is clearly obvious, but Halloumi is usually vacuum packed with salted water  to keep the cheese fresh. Top tip, is to open pack while in a bowl or even better a tupperware tub, because otherwise you may well have a leaking packet emergency).  In my experience, if you are not planning to eat the pack in one go (though tempting, a tad too much in one sitting if it’s just you!) the liquid is beneficial when storing in fridge, so slicing in tupperware box enables everything to be kept in best way for next use.
  • Slice into small cubes, to be served as canapes alongside other low carb snacks, or as a quick low carb snack fix when hunger strikes!

2) Cooked version:

Cooking this cheese provides a totally different taste.  While it doesn’t melt, the cheese is softer and the salty taste is much reduced.  I have fried off some slices in a small amount of butter here especially due to the visual cooked presentation but it can also be grilled more healthily and suspect its only the capabilities of my oven which don’t enable the same effects when I do this – let me know what you find!

Tomatoes and Halloumi totally compliment eachother and provide a fast snack or indeed a satisfying meal perhaps when accompanied by a salad or some low carb bread? But as ever there are a plethora of ways to enjoy this alongside other low carb dishes.

  • Open pack (with advice as above)
  • Slice cheese in approx 1cm slices (NOTE best not too small a width, as you want to keep them firm enough for cooking).
  • Heat amount of butter in pan and distribute so all pan covered, keep heat fairly high.
  • Add slices and cook for approx 30 seconds on each side. Keep turning until a ‘browned’ effect is visible.
  • Add cherry/plum tomatoes sliced in half and cook with cheese for a further minute (keep turning so as not to get the cheese burnt) or until browned nicely on both sides.

Enjoy!

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Low Carb Takeaway – done!

2 Feb

One of the really good things about eating this way as a ‘diet’ is that you still get to eat some of the foods considered ‘bad’.  Takeaways definitely fall into that category – I’m not a massive advocate of them on a regular basis, but when time is pressed, or you are at the mercy of a group of hungry people demanding them – it’s good to be able to participate.  As a result, Indian and Chinese food (for example) is not really a problem on a low carb diet – you just omit the rice (and sauces with sugar).  Except… I love rice!  Or I should say I loved it…sniff.  I kind of feel cheated or ripped off if takeaway is ordered in and I can’t have any – honestly one of the few times where I feel cheated by this diet, which seems mad considering by how much you can participate.

So my brother came to stay last weekend and – slightly crazy, because I should have been either cooking myself or taking him out to see the bright lights of London Town, but because hey he was knackered, we’ve had loads to catch up on and he is here for a while – we ordered takeaway at home.  Luckily for me (or perhaps him not to have to put up with my moaning) I had previously created a load of cauliflower rice for just this occasion.  You can see my recipe here – but for the variety to complement your takeaway, I would suggest just cooking with onions, and then when ready, stirring with a beaten egg for a few minutes in the pan, to create an egg fried variety.

Everyone else eating opted for the normal rice – but they are not low carb dieters! In my opinion, this doesn’t even look low carb – and actually tastes like you’re just having a full takeaway – brilliant!

Top 10 low carb cooking tools and gadgets

19 Jan

We all know (or at least I do), that low carb eating can be a faff.  Being prepared is almost a mantra for this way of eating –  and when you have done a lot of cooking or preparation starting the week then you do feel very smug and ability to stay on track is much better – but sometimes? Life gets in the way!

I am – by my own admission – a gadget fiend for all types, especially electronic, always on the look out for the next thing that’s going to make my life easier, do something faster or generally just look cool.  And cooking is no different, especially when it comes to low carb cooking – anything that makes it easier/faster/better is great because it helps you stay on the low carb path.  So here are products at the front of my mind or cupboard – what are yours?

1) Courgette Splicer – I have mentioned this in previous posts, but it is brilliant – you must must must buy one if you haven’t because it creates a great way to eat courgettes, creates substitutes for pasta or noodles, and even impresses dinner guests who have only ever seen courgette cooked a couple of ways.   Definitely a winner.

2)  Flask – Yes, it does make you feel like you are back in a past family picnic – however, it is a brilliant tool for the low carb office lunch.  As past posts show I am rather partial to soup from the local sandwich eaterie (completely admit convenience and laziness make this an ever appealing option).  BUT, if you can make your own soups (totally easy, will post more soon on this) and can spare a mere two mins in the morning to heat up… with the addition of a flask (which doesn’t have to be the best or most expensive version!), you can have hot soup for lunch without the need to queue for the microwave at lunch and be the envy of the office.

3) Food Grill – As a result of some vouchers my very clever other half won as a result of doing well at work, we recently purchased a ‘health grill’ – (and after much debate, one with cleanable trays, which has proved valuable!).  Think I’m coming very late to the party with this, but I’m loving it.  Not so much for the fat reducing aspect as on low carb that’s not so much a problem, but because it provides a really quick and easy way to cook the low carb staple of meat well – especially sausages which I always seem to have a problem with!

4)  Food Processor – OK, I love love love my food processor.  Ours is possibly one of the cheapest on the market, but I use it constantly (and its been going for a long while!).  Especially good for our old friend the cauliflower. Cauliflower mash? Never going to taste as good as when its been blended by the food processor.  Cauliflower pizza? Complete nightmare to grate cauliflower by hand, but with the grating attachment, you can get everything sorted easily – and even better quickly – important when you are replicating fast food!

5)  Steamer Bags – Not really a tool or gadget as such, but these are so brilliant and the biggest bargain ever. I brought ten at Poundland for (as the name suggests!) a pound, in a slightly scary pre Christmas experience in Poundland Camden Town.  Just pop them in the microwave with some chopped veg for a couple of mins and you’re ready to go.  I have even since found that you can wash them out after use! All the benefits of low cost and convenience, with the added benefit of no cauliflower smell in your living space – buy them. If only for the last reason (and to reduce moaning of your OH). Those versions are clearly a bargain, but think you can also get upper class zipped versions at outlets such as Lakeland should you prefer to spend more!

6) Silicon Cake Tray – I was anti this at first.  I mean, what does a rubberised cake tray have to offer in a world of lovely looking kitchen equipment? How wrong I was.  Whatever you are making, after cooking, you can simply tip the recipe out of the tray – and crucially without the need for greasing them and adding more time to your recipe – ready to cool and eat. There are lots of good cake recipes for the typical sweet need for this equipment, but it also great for low carb breakfast muffins, using it for portions of low carb Quiche… the list goes on!  Have added some versions of these on my online shop – but you can get some great value (but not as sturdy!) versions, again from Poundland.  I use one of each type!

7) Hand Blender – As have said previously soups are a great asset for low carb eating. Again, we have the cheapest version, and it works just fine! Am aware that you can definitely use your food processor/blender to help with this very easily.  However, the hand bender is a brilliant asset for helping with the final stages of soup.  Just plug it in, blend, then a quick wash of the blade means there’s not even much washing up to contend with. It is not always the easiest to transfer soup to different receptacles for blending, so bringing the blender to the soup is a brilliant time – and stress! – saver.)

8 ) Shake mixer – I have no time in the mornings – or maybe what is more true is that I prioritise sleeping in my morning routine and with the time spent getting ready for your day ahead, you are left with precious little time for prepping a low carb day! Before this diet I thought protein shakes were the domain of muscley weight lifters, but I digress and feel the need to tell you more soon, but if you are in the market for taking a protein shake to work in lieu of your otherwise regular coffee, its brilliant. With the mixer ball inside to shake the drink all the way to work in your bag, simply add a scoop of protein shake, some ice cubes and some soy milk and breakfast is served – at your desk!

9)  Netbook – OK, stay with me on this one! The internet (as hopefully this blog proves) can provide a lucrative, much needed, source for low carb recipes. In fact, recent research shows that consumers in the UK are now turning more towards the internet as a source of recipe inspiration than cookery books. Yes, of course you can print these out, or commit them to memory, but I love taking my little (or littler than a laptop) netbook into the kitchen to sit away from the prep as a reassurance am following the recipes to plan.  With Nigella et al now providing videocasts of recipes and ipads, smart phones and ever more amazing technology more accessible, I think this type of cooking is only going to become more popular.

10) Cheese Grater – Yes.  Cheese is a massive staple of the low carb lifestyle and many low carb recipes demand a lot of it.  I have got – more than one! – ‘normal’ cheese graters to do the deed, but they can be troublesome… and messy.  Which is why having one which contains all the cheese in a box attached is great.. especially when you plan to use a certain amount – less is more!

Low Carb London – EAT

12 Jan

Cauliflower Cheese Soup from eat - low carb loveliness in your lunchbreak

As much as I aspire to be the girl who always brings in her carefully made lunch to work – and I have made more effort since new year as my last post shows – sometimes, like today, it is just too rainy/cold/boring to undertake it.  Today I had to buy in lunch, but I suspect this was subconsciously because I knew Cauliflower Cheese Soup was on the menu at Eat.

As we know on this way of eating – the cauliflower is your friend!  And this is brilliant, I like cauliflower, I love cauliflower cheese and I am a massive fan of Eat’s idea to provide it in soup form!  Described as ‘the ultimate comfort food’ by Eat’s menu, this delicious soup ticks all the boxes for taste and being filling and, of course, for being low carb (approx 5 carbs per 100g I think, but as the name suggests I don’t really do the whole counting thing).  My purchase instigated a bit of soup related chat in the office and it appears I’m in the minority by favouring cheese in a soup – however, if you are doing low carb and therefore eliminating the bread – it’s a massive bonus to have the extra fillingness provided by the cheese.  This is backed up by the fact that I ate at approx 12.30pm and it is now 19:10 and I still don’t feel hungry – result!

Being essentially a sandwich shop, Eat is not amazing for low carb eating, but there are some good options (especially with the soups).  Check out the latest menu and other nutritional information here.  If you have any low carb lunch break recommendations I would love to hear them!

Carb v Low Carb – a Salmon Supper

10 Aug

I, like many others I’m sure, have got a repertoire of fail-safe dishes which I have honed over the years to become my staple dishes for dinner which would suit my every mood. When I moved in with my OH, we had a period of confusion where these dishes battled for supremacy, but ultimately settled down into a pattern so that we now have a joint set of favourites – but sharing the cooking on alternate days, which has seemed to work!

Was talking with my lovely OH tonight about the low carb way of eating in general and while lots of our favourite dinners pre this WOE were carb heavy (due in no small part my desire to have them that way!) both he and myself have been surprised how my adaptation of low carb and him not wanting (or needing) to have not really impacted our routine – in fact had I not been spurred on to for diet purposes I think I would have enjoyed the way I eat them now just as much. And furthermore, it doesn’t even require an extra length of time to do two versions.

So thought it might be interesting/useful to post some dinners as they are round our place to demonstrate. Tonight’s is not a particularly innovative version (hard day at the office!), but stay tuned for more for ideas on the same theme..

Firstly, news from the courgette camp is that we have our first big courgette from the tiny north London balcony outside our flat:

Our newest courgette addition to the family - fork to show scale (yes I was pretty excited and yes, no expense spared on LCNNC!)

We’ve actually grown a fair few, but due to either my excitement about harvesting, the OH’s determination to grow them as big as we’d get in the supermarket or local birds spying their dinner (well, think that’s the case – otherwise we have some pretty big insects demanding food on the balcony there), this is the first that’s made it though. Despite the excitement, it was always going to get eaten for dinner!

So dinner (in the yellow v blue corner for demonstration purposes below), as I said fairly simple, but swapping the potatoes for cauli-mash, makes the meal as, if not more, filling for low carb eaters – perfect on a rainy Tuesday:

Low hassle dinner a deux chez LCNNC

Completely hassle free dinner for two, with two different diet options.

You will need:

2 salmon fillets

Spoon of pesto sauce (mine from a jar, but you could of course make your own!)

Spoon of Creme Fraiche

1 Courgette

New Potatoes

Cauliflower 1/4 or half a head for this recipe, but I find you may as well use it all and save some mash for the next evening)

Method – for both

Salomon fillets: Remove from packaging and sit on two squares of tin foil.  Drizzle a small amount of olive oil and lemon juice and spread over pesto sauce on top of each. Fold foil over into parcels, pop on an oven tray and cook for 15/20 mins on 200 deg c.

Mix the small amount of Creme Fraiche with tiny amount of pesto for a sauce to drizzle on top of the fish.

Courgetti Spaghetti – Create courgette strands using method here, then add to a frying pan with 3 tablespoons water and squeeze lemon juice, cook until water absorbed, for approx 5 mins – sprinkle of tarragon with this is also delicious.

Method – for carb v low-carb options

1) New potatoes – add to pan of boiling water for about 15 mins (if you do this same time as the fish, should hopefully coincide), add sauce or dressing, or as i’m requested to – let the recipient handle that bit!

2) Cauli-mash, using the recipe here, or even simpler – chop cauliflower florets and add to microwave steam bag.  Cook on high for approx 5-6 mins.  When soft empty into food processor and blend with tiny amount butter/cream/cheese as desired and salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy a harmonious carb/low carb dinner for two!

Anyone else have any tips for sharing this WOE with family and friends?  Would love to hear about your experiences.

A longing for low carb Gnocchi or pasta? Try Gnudi!

8 Aug

Just before I started this way of eating I had a real ‘foodie’ friend come to visit. Quite frankly any of the usual dishes in my repertoire were not going to cut it, so I decided to up the anti and make my own pasta for dinner.  It took ages.  All the faffing around making the dough and getting it to the right consistency and rolling it to the right amount, never mind the fillings which I decided were the easy bit.

As I proudly served up my labour of love and watched my friend and OH chew.. and chew..  and chew.. I realised I had been so obsessed about making the pasta what I has actually served them was a boiled piece of dough with a TINY pocket of filling… good job I had made a good dessert!  Bad as that was it motivated me to 1) Kick-start the low carb as I had no desire to even look at pasta for a good long while and 2) gave me proof that fillings were definitely the important bit, and that I wouldn’t miss the pasta part anyway in my low-carb dieting.

And by and large I haven’t.   Having the courgette gadget to create courgetti spaghetti has certainly made it possible to have pasta-esque meals  using the sauces which were the main bit I missed, but after a long time eating this way, my thoughts have now and again turned to pasta (though not making it!) and how easy it is if you are entertaining or want an easy night of cooking, but short of picking off the outside of a Raviloi I was bemused as to how I could do this low-carb style.

So it was coincidental then, that it was while having one of these easy nights and having a night off in front of the TV that the answer came through, rather incongruously given the expertise hinted at in the title, Masterchef.  Myself and OH, like much of Britain, like to sit in front of this programme where contestants compete to cook restaurant standard dishes to please a couple of shouty men from the food profession.  There is not often much cause for low carb celebration (though was amazed to see a contestant once rewarded for their up-to-the-minute skills in cooking cauliflower mash –  which low carb fans have been enjoying for ages).  But in this episode, one recipe made me sit up straight and start thinking about dinner… Gnudi.

Gnudi is kind of a cross between Ravioli and Gnocchi.  Ravioli because it is essentially a way of cooking it without the pasta shell (naked, or nude hence the name) and Gnocchi because of the manner in which it is cooked like dumplings and boiled until they rise to the top.  I believe there are lots of ways of cooking this and I have deviated from the recipe I saw to ensure it is low carb – notably removing the flour from the recipe when making it and using ground almonds to roll the dumplings in before cooking (though as such a small amount of flour would be used for this, I suppose it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you were to keep that in).

What is great about these is even one is really filling, so might be a good option to have alongside a salad or a meal, OR you can really go to town in serving them in a dish as something that both carb and no-carb eaters can enjoy.  It would also make a great serving dish alongside a nice crisp salad.  Now that we are growing salad leaves on our balcony, I may just have to invite that friend back round and try again!

Step one.. mix all ingredients...

Low Carb Gnudi

3 Eggs

250 g Ricotta Cheese

120g Grated Parmesan Cheese

Frozen Chopped Spinach (approx 5 bundles, thawed)

Ground Almonds (approx two tablespoons) – or flour

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Step two... bring to the boil

Method:

Separate eggs and add the yolks to a bowl, mixing in the Ricotta Cheese and Parmesan.

Thaw the spinach and (importantly!) squeeze out any excess water.

Combine the spinach with the rest of the mixture and add salt and pepper to taste.

Sprinkle ground almonds over a small plate.

Scoop out small amounts and roll into a ball, then roll in the ground almonds or flour until coated.

Add to a pan of boiling water and boil for about 5 mins – Gnudi will have floated to the top of the water.

Remove with slotted spoon and serve straight away with sauce, or add to oven proof dish coat with a sauce and bake in oven for a further 5-10 mins and serve.

Step three - Low Carb Gnudi pasta/dumplings ready for the sauce or style of your choosing!

Low carb breakfast? A cracking Frittata Primavera

2 Aug

As I’ve said before on this blog, and many other low carb followers have confirmed, preparation is key on this diet.

One area it’s often quite hard to prepare for is breakfast – I’m not a breakfast early in the morning kind of girl (often leaving me in a dangerous hunger space mid-morning at the office!) and have honed the time between waking up and leaving for work to the bare minimum to maximise all important sleeping time…

You can of course enjoy things like bacon and eggs or scrambled eggs on this diet, but if you’ve got to be in the office early, this isn’t really an option during the week.  So, to alleviate these problems, plus the problem of what to cook when you haven’t got many ingredients – this Fritatta Primavera dish is brilliant.  Make it on a Sunday when you’ve got some time, cut into eights and wrap up in foil. Store in the fridge and grab on your way to work and it makes a perfect low carb breakfast, or in addition to a salad the perfect low carb lunch box.   And even better it works both hot and cold, uses up any leftover ingredients you have hanging around – and provides a vitamin boost from the included vegetables.

Only trouble with making this ahead of time for the week is that it is so good at bringing together all the healthy green things in a delicious way that my (vegetable dodging) boyfriend discovered it in the fridge on a late night snack mission – leaving me considerably less to be prepared with!

Frittata Primavera

You will need…

Metal frying pan (this is going to go under grill at end, so ensure it’s a sturdy one!)

6 Eggs

Half an onion, chopped

Half a courgette, diced

Handful of chopped spinach

3 Tablespoons frozen Peas

I slice bacon, chopped

3 tablespoons cream cheese

Tablespoon of pesto sauce

Method:

Beat the eggs together in a bowl and set aside

Heat a blob of butter in a pan, add the onions and turn heat down low until cooked through.

Add bacon and cook on same low heat with onions until done

Add in frozen peas (these will defrost as you cook), courgettes and spinach and cook (stirring continuously) for another 3/4 mins,

Add in the eggs, pushing in sides of mixture and ensuring remaining mixture fills in the gaps (but careful not to do this too much or you’ll end up with scrambled egg and vegetables as a dish instead)

When mixture looks like it is setting at side (not on top) take off heat (n.b it is tempting to leave this longer for the top to be done, but err on the side of caution as next step will cook the Frittata through, and a burnt underside is not nice!)

Add dollops of the cream cheese all over the pan

Place under grill until nearly set

Add small dollops of pesto sauce all over and return to grill for another 2 mins approx until cooked

Wait (if you can resist the temptation!) to cool and cut into eights, if not serve warm with salad.

Enjoy!

Serve and enjoy!

Top 10 Low Carb Supermarket Essentials

20 Jul

When making trips to the supermarket on a low carb way of eating it is vital to be prepared.  The more low carb options you have at your disposal, the less likely you are to fall off the wagon!  Here are my top 10 essential items which are always on my shopping list:

1.  Babybel Cheese – These are such an essential for me, and for eating low carb.  Easy and portable, perfect for a quick breakfast item you can chuck in your bag for work or a quick fix afternoon snack to see you through to dinner!

2. Soy Milk – Lower carb than traditional milk, I was surprised when I tried this under duress for the diet and found I really liked it. Another perfect on the go breakfast as a protein shake too – Alpro do a great light version with even fewer carbs.

3. Eggs – Can be used in such a wide variety of ways with low carb cooking, from scrambled eggs for breakfast, egg wraps for lunch or frittata for dinner – and relatively cheap too! Make sure they are free range though.

4. Decaf Coffee or Herbal Tea – Decaf coffee is definitely a good purchase for this way of eating, particularly if you are cutting out caffeine at the start.  Meanwhile there are so many lovely herbal teas you can buy now, it feels like an indulgent treat (and takes your mind off snacking!).  I like Detox Tea from Birt&Tang and Dragonfly Vanilla Rooibos.

5. Cream – It does take your head a while to get around that cream is ok on this way of eating.  But once you do, you find its a great asset for cooking (crustless Quiche in particuar – will post on this soon), or to lower your carb count even more by adding it to coffee.

6. ‘Guest cheese’ – No not some weird cheese brand!  But as your supermarket shop now effectively banishes you from what you previously considered the ‘treat’ aisles, a substitute may be in order. I have discovered the cheese counter and now buy a (small amount of!) a new and exciting cheese when I go.  How about eating your way around Britain’s Cheese board with a new piece each week?

7. Lettuce – Salads definitely feature a lot on my low carb menu, and with the inclusion of cheese/cream et its frankly quite nice to balance this with some crisp, fresh light meals!  Again I try to ensure  I vary the type I am buying to ensure boredom doesn’t set in.

8. Peanut Butter – Important that this is a no added sugar variety (Whole Earth do a particularly nice version and are my brand of choice) – invaluable to me as I will eat a teaspoon to offset a sugar craving and have in the fridge for emergencies

9. Ham / Bacon – invaluable for inclusion in salads, or wider cooking. Bacon is great with eggs for brekkie and ham and cream cheese roll ups an ideal low carb snack!

10. 80% (or above) Chocolate – If it’s just got to be chocolate, make sure its dark with a high cocoa content – store in fridge and make sure a square in emergencies goes a long way!

What are your essential low carb shopping items?

If you can’t make the heat, get out of the kitchen?

19 Jul

Disaster has struck in our house – the oven has broken.  This is really more of a disaster for me as I’m keen on trying out more recipes involving the oven.  As the weather in London recently has been really lovely, we are finding ourselves wanting to get out and bask in the niceness that sunshine brings out in London and it’s people.   So outside of work we’ve been living a life of BBQs, dinner at restaurants with outside areas and a LOT of lazing around on Hampstead Heath.. and not quite as much cooking as I planned to be doing at the start of each week!

But I had the idea for this dish because in our last shopping trip I had found a really good deal on a large packet of courgettes and had wide eyed-ly insisted to the OH that I had to have them, they would of course be used up in a myriad of recipes I had planned for this week and would definitely be all gone by this time next week.  So we got to this weekend and I guiltily realised many of said bargain courgettes were indeed still sitting there unloved and unused because of us being out so much.  Clearly an emergency “use loads of courgettes in one dish” recipe was called for – so I opted for this pasta-esque courgette bake.  It is a really nice dish to make alongside a ‘proper’ pasta one perhaps if you’re cooking for a few people, as feels like you are all sharing in the same meal – carb/less or not – and in the warmer weather its nice hot or cold with a salad.  Plus I’m sure its all good training for when we finally get to harvest our own lovely courgettes which are still doing well out on the balcony.

Only problem was that I made the realisation of the oven not working well into the start of this recipe – not ideal for a recipe with ‘bake’ in its title!  Our grill however, is working – and using a combination this, cooking the ingredients on the perspex dish as I went along and steaming the courgettes before they went in meant that I think I got away with it – but would be interested to hear if those of you lucky enough to have ovens find  that way best!

Tomato and Mozzarella Courgette Bake

Olive Oil

1 Medium onion

3 Slices Bacon, chopped

5 Small Courgettes – chopped into batons

1 packet fresh Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese, sliced

Approx 2 handfuls Grated Mozzarella Cheese

1 Tin Chopped Tomatoes

Tomato Puree (approx 3 tablespoons)

Chicken/Vegetable Stock Cube

Water

Herbs to taste (I used dried Herbs de Provence plus fresh Basil)

Method:

Heat small amount of oil in perspex dish on hob and add chopped onions, turn heat down and cook slowly until onions are translucent

Add chopped bacon and cook through, so that the onions absorb some of the flavour

Add the water and a crumbled stock cube, stirring together until a slightly thick consistency

Add the tin of chopped tomatoes and stir in, along with whichever hers you decide to use

Add in the tomato puree and cook until mixture thickens up – remember courgettes carry a lot of water, so the thicker the better as this will thin out while cooking!

Take the steamed/boiled courgettes and drain, then stir through into the sauce

dot the fresh mozzarella throughout and cover with the grated mozzarella

Grill for approx 10 mins – or until top bubbling and golden

Serve with a side salad or enjoy on its own!

Quick low carb cooking – easy as 123!

14 Jul

Cooking for the time pressed - easy as 123!

I live in London, and a problem that many (non car owning Londoners such as myself) find when it comes to cooking is that 1) you are often time pressed as London life is so hectic and 2) you are not always in close proximity to a large supermarket.  You are therefore often dependent on the ‘local’ or ‘metro’ versions of big supermarket chains specially designed for people like me where ostensibly it is claimed they provide a selection of easy access products for you to ‘top up’ your main shop with – but what it actually means is that there are limited options which have somehow incurred a massive price mark up – the ‘top up’ tax if you will…

Anyway, I digress (and breathe!). Our nearest large supermarket is in Camden which we visit religiously each Sunday, the mundaneness of the task often offset by the entertainment value of the larger than life characters wandering the aisles, still dazed and confused and sleep deprived from not having returned from their night out before!  But inevitably I will often need a few things locally as the week goes on as I make my way from the tube to home on the way back from work, and this is where the local versions of supermarkets come in handy.

So, the point of all this is that on the nights where I drop by our Sainsburys Local in need of a Low Carb menu idea (and while this way of eating has certainly upped my desire about and knowledge around cooking, sometimes I just need food… fast) it’s not always the easiest to buy quick LC options.  BUT – step in the ‘whats cooking’ range!  It’s basically designed along the principle of basic food groups, vegetables, meat/fish, sauce and carbohydrates and has a selection of products within each sector.  Low carb lovers can simply drop the carbohydrate option and have a range of quick and easy menus.

This from the Sainsburys launch press release about the range:

There are no rules – every component is specially developed to taste great with whatever you chose to match it with. It really is as easy as 1,2,3,4…

Choose between:

  1. Meat/fish – chicken with coriander & chilli; chicken with parsley; beef with parsley; pork with parsley; prawns – we only use British chicken, beef and pork
  2. Vegetables – classic green vegetable medley; oriental stir fry vegetable mix; Indian vegetable mix; Mediterranean vegetable mix – all of our vegetables are fresh
  3. Sauce – tomato & basil; cheese & bacon; tikka masala; tandoori sizzler; sweet chilli; red pepper & chilli; coconut & chilli, black bean; creamy mushroom; Mexican fajita – all of our fresh sauces are based on authentic recipes and flavours
  4. Carbs – penne pasta; rice; baby potatoes; noodles; tortilla wraps

So as you can see, cooking with these menu options is indeed as easy as 123 (not 1234 you’ll note – a sign about the corruptive carbs?!).  But actually should I be doing something like this I would certainly throw in a carb option for my oft carb deprived OH, poor lamb.

I certainly recommend if you are UK-based checking this range out – definitely gets you out of a tight spot and away from the temptation of the pizza/pasta aisle if you need to be cooking a fast LC evening meal.  Good work Sainsburys!

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