Friday 22 February 2013

Brown shrimps: a 5:2 diet treat

Fellow 5:2 dieters will almost certainly have discovered prawns are a great fast day food. What you might not know is that brown shrimps even tastier.

Not that they’re cheap - a 90g packet will cost you about £3.40-something in Waitrose although they’re currently on offer in Sainsbury’s at £6 for two packs - but because they’re so small it looks like you’re getting far more than that weight suggests (great psychology).

The other advantage is of course that unlike potted shrimps they’re not coated in calorific butter which makes them only 87 calories per 100g - or 39 calories for half a pack.

I’ve scattered them over the top of a finely sliced fennel salad (with chilli, mint and lemon juice) and also added them to celery to jazz up a piece of baked fish. Incidentally celery is another wonder ingredient that contains practically no calories at all, if you can face it. Try it this way.

Baked cod with celery and brown shrimps
Serves 2 at 189 calories per portion

1/4-1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1/2 tsp coarse salt
300g cod (300 cals)
125ml veg stock made with 1/2 tsp bouillon powder (6 cals)
10 sprays oil (10 cals)
50g brown shrimps (44 cals)
110g celery stalks and leaves (10 cals)
1 tsp fish sauce (3 cals)
white pepper
A wedge of lemon (5 cals, if that)

Heat the oven to 190°C. Grind together the chilli and salt. Season the fish on both sides with the chilli mixture and pepper.

Spray half the oil over a baking dish, place the fish in the dish and spray with the remaining oil. Bake for about 10-12 minutes until just cooked. Set aside in a warm place to rest.

Wash, de-string* and slice the celery. Put in a pan with the veg stock and fish sauce, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the shrimps.

Serve the cod on warm plates with the celery and prawns and a wedge of lemon.

De-stringing celery really helps makes it more digestible. just snap it in half and pull away the strings away from the stalk. Simple

Friday 15 February 2013

5:2 How I learned to love (or at least like) cottage cheese

Sooner or later everyone on a diet turns to cottage cheese. Everyone except me, up to now. I’ve always loathed the stuff.

But with ordinary cheese ruled out, on fast days at least, and feeling equally lukewarm about tofu it struck me that it must be possible to make it taste good.

It is.

I’ve had it three ways recently - twice for breakfast and once, just now, for lunch. And it’s tasted good every time.

The key, of course, is to make it not taste like cottage cheese - unless you’re a cottage cheese fanatic in which case you probably won’t have got beyond the first paragraph. And that is by adding low fat yoghurt which zips it up and gives it a much better texture. About half as much yoghurt as cottage cheese does the trick.

Breakfast idea no. 1 was to serve it (or rather my yoghurt/cottage cheese combo) Turkish style (above) with cucumber, tomato and a seeded flatbread with a sprinkle of za'atar (a middle-eastern blend of dried, sesame seeds and sumac) sprinkled over the top. The second time I had it with blueberries and grated lemon rind (below). I really liked this.

And the picture at the top of the post is today’s salad which is slightly more calorific than it need have been due to the sprinkle of seeds. You could leave them out or pass on the Ryvita Thin I ate with it. Or both.

Cottage cheese, spring onion + beet salad (157 calories)

60g cottage cheese (44 cals)
35g 0% Greek yoghurt or other low fat yoghurt (20 cals)
1 spring onion, trimmed and very finely sliced or a heaped tbsp of chopped chives (2 cals)
100g cooked beetroot, drained and cubed (48 cals)
1 tsp balsamic vinegar (optional - 7 cals)
25g spinach and watercress salad (6.5 cals)
1 tsp (5g) seed sprinkle (optional - 29 cals)

Weigh out and mix the cottage cheese with the yoghurt and finely sliced spring onion. Add a little water if you’re using a very thick yoghurt like Total.  Drain and cube the beetroot and mix with balsamic vinegar if you fancy it - though if you’ve deliberately bought it because it wasn’t in vinegar that might not appeal.

Place a handful of salad on a plate, top with the cottage cheese mixture, scatter over the beetroot then sprinkle with the seeds if using. Or za'atar, a pinch of cumin or more chives or spring onion.

As I said, I added a 37 calorie Ryvita thin which brought the calorie total to 193.5. And doesn't leave me much for the rest of the day. But this was pretty filling.

Are you a cottage cheese lover or loather? And if the former, how do you eat it?

Thursday 14 February 2013

5:2 A 100 calorie lunch (near as . . .)

Although I find I can skip lunch more readily than I used to when I started the 5:2 diet there are days when the hunger pangs just won’t go away - particularly if I’ve eaten lightly the night before. This salad was in response to just such an emergency.

I’d been thinking if I had one egg instead of two that wouldn’t gobble up too many of the evening’s calories. I had a tomato and a spinach, watercress and rocket salad in the fridge but the ingredient that brought them all together and which turned out to have a welcome lack of calories was capers. They gave the salad punch and the liquid from the jar provided an instant, calorie-free dressing. Result!

Egg, tomato and caper salad (107 cals)

1 egg (78 cals)
1 tomato (115g) (21 cals)
2 tsp capers (10g) 1.4 cals + some liquid from the jar
a handful of watercress or watercress, spinach and rocket salad 25g (6.5 cals)
freshly ground black pepper

Hard boil the egg. Skin and slice the tomato. (Actually you don’t have to skin it but I think it tastes better). Arrange both on a small plate thus creating the illusion of greater quantity. Place a handful of watercress alongside. Spoon over the capers and trickle some of the liquid from the jar on the tomatoes and salad leaves. Grind over some black pepper. Voilà!

Confession: I also had a 34 calorie Peter’s Yard crispbread with it which brought the total to 141 calories. But that’s still not a lot.

Thursday 7 February 2013

Spiced root vegetable soup

I know I've been banging on a lot about 5:2 lately so here's a recipe which isn't part of the diet or that you could run up after a fast day on which you've made yesterday's dal.

The only ingredient you need if you've already bought a bag of mixed carrot and swede and have the spices in your store-cupboard is an onion. Which makes it super-cheap.

Serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
400g mixed carrot and swede, cubed (see previous post)
1 tsp cumin seeds or ground cumin
1 tsp coriander seeds or ground coriander
1/4 tsp chilli flakes or a pinch of chilli powder
1/2 tsp salt if using whole spices
1/2 level tsp ground turmeric
750ml light vegetable stock made with 1 tbsp Marigold vegetable bouillon powder
chopped fresh coriander or parsley
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok and stir in the onion and diced carrot and swede. Cook over a low heat until the vegetables start to soften*.

If you're using whole spices grind the cumin, coriander seeds and chilli flakes together with a pestle and mortar with 1/2 a teaspoon of salt then mix with the turmeric. Otherwise simply mix the ground spices then add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the spices to the vegetables, stir and continue to cook until they begin to colour. Stir in the stock and cook until the veg are completely soft.

Strain the vegetables over a bowl then place the cooked veg in a food processor or blender and whizz until smooth, adding as much of the reserved cooking liquid as you need to get a smooth purée. (You may need to do this in two batches.)

Tip the puréed vegetables back into the frying pan - or a clean saucepan if you don't mind the extra washing-up - and add back the remaining stock plus as much liquid as you need to make a smooth soup (I added another 150ml).  Reheat and adjust the seasoning.

Serve with a few chopped coriander or parsley leaves if you have some and a dash of hot sauce if you fancy it.

* You could also roast the veg if you wanted to. I did as the Aga is on all the time and it gives the soup a nice roasted flavour but it's not necessary.

Wednesday 6 February 2013

5:2: Quick red lentil and carrot dal

After 24 hours of eating pure protein* I was gagging for something veggie tonight and hit on the notion of trying to make a low calorie version of my favourite dal. I found a couple of packs of pre-prepared veg in the local Tesco (don't hate me) and that clinched it.

I'll probably tweak it a bit. The carrot made it a little on the sweet side so you could cut it down or up the lentils slightly although that will obviously make it more calorific. On the other hand if you just chopped up a carrot and some swede it might clock up fewer calories - I found the bag I'd bought had some potato in it.

Normally I use a fair bit of oil to fry the onion and spices so they weren't quite as enticingly crispy as usual. But it's not bad. Not bad at all. Particularly for a cold February night.

Serves 2-3 (500 calories total so about 200-250 cals per portion)

1 large onion (150g) (47 cals)
200g mixed carrot and swede, cubed (82 cals)
80g red lentils (265 cals)
5g chunk of fresh ginger, grated (2 cals)
1/2 level tsp turmeric or a little more if you're into turmeric. It is very healthy (4 cals)
750ml light vegetable stock made with 2 tsp Marigold vegetable bouillon powder (24 cals)
50g sliced cabbage or raw spinach leaves (16 cals)
about 5g chopped fresh coriander (2 cals)
1 tsp cumin seeds (8 cals)
1 tsp coriander seeds (5 cals)
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 tsp coarse salt plus a little extra salt to taste
1 tsp oil (40 cals)
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely sliced (2 cals)

Halve the onion, chop half of it roughly and set the rest aside. Put the chopped onion, carrot and swede in a saucepan with the red lentils, ginger and turmeric. Pour over the stock, bring slowly to the boil, skim off any froth then simmer for 20-25 minutes until the vegetables are soft, adding a little extra water if you need it. Take off the heat and mash roughly, just to break the veg down a bit.

Blanch the cabbage briefly in boiling water. (If you're using spinach you don't need to do this.) Drain and add to the lentils along with most of the chopped coriander leaving a little for garnish.

Thinly slice the remaining onion. Grind together the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, chilli flakes and coarse salt with a pestle and mortar.

Heat the oil in a non stick frying pan and add the sliced garlic and onion. Cook over a moderate heat for 2-3 minutes then add the roughly ground spices. Continue to fry over a low heat for another couple of minutes taking care not to scorch the spices.

Serve the lentils and cabbage topped with the spicy onions and a few extra coriander leaves.

If you can't be bothered faffing around with whole spices you could always add some diluted curry paste to the dal as I did with the Spicy 5 Vegetable Stew I made recently.

*I was at a scallop dinner last night. Then ate scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for breakfast today.