Chachouka

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Chachouka is an Arabic term for ‘mixture,’ but is also a North African spicy red pepper and tomato stew, with eggs baked on the top. It makes a delicious mid-week supper. Serve with a crisp salad, big hunks of crusty bread to mop up the sauce and a nice glass of robust red wine.
chachouka
Note: Ideally you will need an ovenproof frying pan for this recipe, but if you don’t have one, transfer the mixture to an ovenproof dish at step 4.

Ingredients:

Serves 2

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 large onion halved and sliced finely
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and finely sliced
  • 1 yellow pepper, deseeded and finely sliced
  • ½ tsp hot smoked paprika
  • A pinch of saffron strands
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt & Pepper to season

 

  1. Begin by heating a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the cumin seeds. Allow the seeds to fry gently for a few minutes before adding the onion. Allow to cook gently for 8-10 minutes until the onoins are soft and slightly caramelised.
  2. Add the garlic and peppers. Continue to cook over a low heat for a further 20 minutes at least, giving the mixture a stir every now and then to ensure it doesn’t burn. The peppers should become soft and wilted.
  3. Now add the paprika, saffron and tomatoes along with their juices as well as some salt and pepper. Cook gently for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/Gas 4.  Make 4 hollows in the surface of the mixture and carefully crack an egg into each one. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the egg is set and the yolk is still runny.

 

Dull skies, bright flavours

Friday, March 28th, 2014

dull-skies

The weather has been rotten everywhere in the UK recently. As far as eating healthily goes, it’s not easy to do during the winter when it’s cold and you feel like filling your body with as many carbs as you can get hold of.  It’s even worse when the weather decides to be the wettest it’s ever been or something like that. We’ve lost track of all the stats. Suffice to say, it’s been wet, and morning walks have become mud trudges, swiftly followed by dog baths. On more than one occasion recently, we’ve had to abandon Ludo’s walks entirely, as the lanes around the cottage have become flooded and we haven’t been able to get anywhere.

Anyway, we’ve kept up the fasting since 5th January. (If you have no idea what I’m on about here, have a look at the About Us bit). We consume 500 calories per day on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 1,200 per day on a Tuesday and Thursday. Weekends lend a little more freedom, and we don’t count calories too much on these days, allowing our foodie tendencies (and cravings) a little bit more leg room. These are the days when we can spend hours (literally) deciding what we’re going to eat for dinner. It’s part of the process and even talking about it feels decadent. It’s not unknown for us to start talking about next weekend’s meal on a Monday.

For my first post, then, I’ve decided to share an indulgent recipe – my lemon drizzle cake, which is absolutely called for on a cold, wet day. It’s so comforting that it can’t fail to bring a little bit of sunshine into your life with its vibrant zestiness. For best results, eat with a huge cup of tea in front of an open fire, with a good book. The cake also freezes well, even after you’ve iced it, which is a good thing as you won’t have to eat it all in one go. Although not doing so is a challenge in itself.

Sunshine Lemon Drizzle Cake

sunshine lemon drizzle cake

While scoffing lemon drizzle cake may be infinitely pleasurable, it’s not that healthy. Obviously; it’s a cake. Still, I feel pretty strongly about the idea that eating healthily is about balance and avoiding deprivation. As long as you take in fewer calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight; it’s no more complicated than that. A slice of lemon cake at the weekend won’t hurt you. Abstaining from something completely, will only breed greater, more emphatic desire and will probably cause a binge. Why deprive, binge and then regret? I ate lemon cake during the period when I lost 4 stone, so I’d hate anyone to feel they ‘couldn’t’ or ‘shouldn’t’ eat it.

However, in the interest of balance, I wanted to share one of our fast day recipes. Fasting is difficult, there’s no two ways about it, but you can devise some pretty tasty treats for under 400 calories. I don’t believe in following ‘diet recipes’ – it’s that idea of feeling as though you’re being deprived again. What we tend to do, and what we want to share with you in this blog, is what we call recipe engineering…

We have a LOT of cookbooks. Most of these cookbooks include fairly indulgent recipes too, all of which we want to cook…and do!  What we do is sit down with the cookbook, a calculator and a laptop and calculate how many calories are in the recipe and what we can lose (like oil) and add (like veg) in order to maintain the integrity and essence of the recipe as a whole, but engineer it down into the 400 calorie bracket. We aim for 400, because on fast days we eat 100 cals at lunch and then 400 for our main meal.

The following recipe is based on one from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty cook book. The recipe is delicious, but it does use a fair bit of oil. We played around with it, dropped most of the oil, replaced it with some cottage cheese and came up with something we really liked. The flavours are bright and zingy against the smokiness of the griddled veg. It’s great for a fast day too, because it looks like you’re getting loads of food on your plate!

Mixed Griddled Veg with Parsley oil and Cottage Cheese

Mixed Griddled Veg with Parsley oil and Cottage Cheese