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(c) My OH :-)

This is a really easy and delicious dessert, and it’s SW-friendly. :-)

Take two nectarines per person. The riper they are, the easier they are to de-stone, but make sure they’re not too ripe, or they’ll just collapse. I find the easiest way to remove the stone is to run my knife from the stalk all the way round, then twist gently to separate the two halves. Take out the stone, and use a teaspoon to scrape away any remaining fibrous bits.

Bring a griddle or frying pan to a medium heat on the hob, and spray with Frylight. Place the nectarine halves cut side down in the pan, and leave to soften and caramelise. This takes about ten minutes or so. Keep moving them every so often to make sure they don’t stick.

I serve these with yoghurt. My OH likes the full fat Greek yoghurt with honey, which does work very well with the fruit, but I go for Total 0% and add some sweetener. You can sprinkle over some cinnamon, which is lovely, but I’m going through a phase of having them with crushed green cardamom seeds.Yummy! :-)

This is equally good made with peaches or plums, and I guess you could use apricots, although I’ve not tried those.

I posted that I’d been at Betty’s Cookery School for a week. The course, Advanced Kitchen Skills, was brilliant. It was a lot of work, and I came home every evening utterly wiped, but very happy, and feeling that I’d learnt a lot. The staff, from the tutors to administrators and housekeepers, are all friendly and efficient, and my fellow students were a great bunch. I was one of the slower ones (which I’d not expected), but I was far from the only one who got cross with themselves when they couldn’t get something perfect first time. I guess it’s that sort of course, and attracts that sort of person!

 

Monday was bread day – pretzels, ciabatta, croissants, pain au raisin with crème patisserie, and a sweet bread from Belgium called Craquelin, which was delicious. The croissants were too much work for me to try them again at home, I suspect. There’s a real skill to keeping the layers through all that rolling and folding, and I think I’ll leave it to the professionals. I will do the pretzel dough again, though, and probably the ciabatta and Craquelin for special occasions.

Tuesday was the hardest day of the lot, but we ended up (at about 7pm) with melt in the mouth oxtail suet puddings, red cabbage, and a nearly-finished hot water crust pork pie. We also made chilli jam and cucumber pickle to go with the pie, and red cabbage to accompany the oxtail puddings. Those are in my freezer, awaiting a visit from my Dad in May.

Wednesday was fish day – we filleted a whole salmon, then cured parts of it two ways (gravadlax was one, and the other was beetroot and vodka) and smoked some it over lapsang souchong tea leaves. The final part went into our lunch – a delicious mussel and langoustine broth, with bean sprouts, carrot and mange tout. I can see me adapting that one into a diet-friendly version. :-)

Thursday was butchery; we watched half a pig being expertly dissected by Brian Noon of Sykes House Farm, which supplies Betty’s with their bacon and sausages. We then had a go ourselves, but on a slightly scaled down level – rabbit! We stuffed the loin, rolled it in Parma ham, and served it with carrots, beans, fondant potatoes and some curly kale with pine nuts and raisins. Here’s one I made earlier! We also got to try making sausages, and I discovered that I am actually rather good at working them into those long ropes of sausages that you see hanging in butchers’ windows. If I ever lose the day job … :-) I’m toying with the idea of trying some home-curing in the garage. It’s not as hard as I’d have thought, and it would be lovely to have some decent bacon and ham. I hate how watery shop-bought bacon can be.

Day five, Friday, was my birthday, and it was such fun, one of the best birthdays I’ve had in years. My colleagues on the course surprised me with a card and flowers, and the tutors gave me a little cake with my name on it, which was really kind. We spent the whole day making desserts – six ways with apple, and some chocolate curls and spun sugar. What better way to spend your birthday than playing with chocolate and making puddings all day? I particularly liked the apple, vanilla and cinnamon ice cream and the apple and honey soufflé, but it was all yummy. :-)

I learned a lot of culinary skills from the course, and, as always, when trying a new thing, something about myself too. I forget, between times, how much fun it is to learn new things, and I will try to remember that more often. I think I will also try to practice getting faster at food prep whilst keeping some precision. I was unhappy that I was slower than most of my fellow students. On the other courses I’ve been on, I have been one of the quicker ones, and it’s clear this was a course for people at a different level. Being stretched is a good thing, though, and it’s given me something general to work on aside from just the recipes and techniques we were taught.

Thank you, Dad, Adie, Tan and James for buying me such a great present. I’ll be cooking you all something yummy from the long list of new and delicious scoffs I’ve learnt, promise. :-)

psd at Flickr

I missed weigh-in the week before last, and I feel a bit guilty about that. I knew it was not going to be good, and I wanted to give myself a chance to redress the balance. I also knew that I would not be back on track after weigh-in, and I don’t like going to my SW Group in the certain knowledge that I am going to be heading straight off plan immediately afterwards. It just seems wrong to me … or maybe this is all just a pile of self-justifying rubbish!

I was off plan for a great reason; I had a new kitchen fitted (of which more in another post) so we had dust, chaos, and no means to cook for most of the week. Yes, we could have had salad, but there was snow on the ground, and it was minus 10 at night – not really the weather for cold collations. Or am I still making excuses? :-) Anyway, we had a curry one evening, collected from our favourite curry house and pizza delivered (with an attempt to deliver the same again about 45 minutes later, which we declined) and two carpet picnics. All delicious in their own way, and the latter at least included some of my 5-a-day – I don’t count saag aloo, though it undoubtedly is green!

I was back on track from Monday of last week, and I think that restricted the damage done, but it was not great. Plus four. To be expected. I’d forgotten that it was a taster evening on Thursday, but a text from my consultant, the lovely Lou, reminded me in time. I had a bit of a bulk-cooking fest on Sunday – any excuse to be in the new kitchen – so I had some roasted Mediterranean vegetable soup in the freezer, which did nicely. It’s from the SW Little Book of Soups, £3.95 from your local group or an eye-watering £14.99 plus delivery from a couple of sellers on Amazon. We’ve had a few of the soups, and liked most of the ones we’ve tried so far, but this is the current favourite. Now that I have a freezer that will hold more than a few loaves of bread without being stuffed to capacity, and a microwave, last-minute changes become much easier to manage. :-)

I’m going to find it hard again this week, but for another great reason. I have a week-long advanced kitchen skills course booked at Betty’s Cookery School which is the very generous gift (for Christmas and birthday) of my Dad, and my brother and his family. Very timely, as the last day of the course is my birthday. I am a little nervous that some of it will be too advanced for me, especially the bread-making, as I have never done that before, but I am sure I will learn a lot. I’ve done day courses at Betty’s before, and thoroughly enjoyed them. Each time, I have ended up tired but very happy and with some new recipes and skills tucked away for future use. Oh, and dinner for that evening, ready to bung in the oven. The school provides food during the day, and you take away what you’ve made at the end, so I imagine the same will happen again. I hope so, as I know I won’t feel like cooking, although it would be easier to stick to SW if I did. We’ll see how it goes, but I fully expect to be reporting another gain next week. The week after is an unknown quantity – I will be away for work for three days, and I am not sure whether I’ll make it home to York in time for weigh-in. It’s out of my hands, as I’m not organising the agenda for the three days, but I’ll do the best I can to stick to the plan, and get to Group. Life is what happens when you’re busy doing something else, as John Lennon didn’t say. :-)

 

 

Serves 2, ½ syn per person on Red/Extra Easy

 

 

 

Ingredients
400g extra lean pork mince
25g sun-dried tomatoes (not in oil) (1 syn)
2 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper
3 peppers, mixed colours
200g cherry tomatoes
Handful of torn basil leaves
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Fry Light

Instructions
1. Finely chop the sun-dried tomatoes and one of the cloves of garlic, put in a mixing bowl and add the lean pork mince. Season and mix well, until all the ingredients are combined. Divide the mix into 16 parts, and roll each into a ball. Cover and put in the fridge for 20 minutes or so.

2. Heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.

3. Chop the peppers into cubes about 2cm square. Slice the second clove of garlic thinly.

4. Spray an ovenproof dish with Fry Light and heat in the oven for a few minutes. Add the pork balls, peppers and sliced garlic and bake uncovered for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven, and stir. Add the cherry tomatoes and return to the oven for another 20 minutes. If the pork balls start to brown too much, cover with foil.

5. Remove the dish from the oven, add the balsamic vinegar, stir well, and serve with veg of your choice or a side salad.

jules:stonesoup at Flickr

You can tell I’m new to this blogging lark. I don’t think to take photos of anything until too late, then scurry off to Flickr to find someone else’s for illustrative purposes. Sigh. Still, there are so many great photographers out there.

I made salmon mousse this afternoon. I am not sure at what point it moves from being a pâté to a mousse, but I think today’s was definitely moussey. It’s lighter than usual, and I think that’s the distinguishing feature, howsoever the lightness is created. In my case, it was fat-free fromage frais, but you could use egg white, whipped to soft peaks, if you prefer. I have also used quark, which keeps the texture quite thick.

This is ridiculously easy to make, and yummy for lunch with some salad or crispbreads. I like Ryvita Minis (a 30g bag is a Healthy Extra B). It makes enough for two lunches, or would be a good starter for two.

Ingredients:
2 salmon fillets (I prefer the lightly smoked for this recipe)
Chilli flakes
Salt and pepper
A squeeze of lemon juice
Fat free fromage frais, about a heaped tablespoon for a thick pâté, or three or four heaped tbsp for a mousse (or a beaten egg white, folded in).

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Place the salmon fillets on a piece of tin foil, season, and sprinkle over some chilli flakes (to your taste). Wrap the foil around the fish, sealing tightly, and place on a baking sheet in the oven. Cook for 15-20 minutes, then remove and allow to cool in the foil parcel.
Once cooled, put the salmon in a bowl, add the juices from the parcel, and a squeeze of lemon juice, and mash it all together. Add fromage frais to make it the consistency you wish, then check the seasoning again. I often find I need to add more chilli flakes at this point, but that may just be because the ones I bought are rather low down on the heat scale. Which, by the way, is called the Scoville Scale. The flakes I have are probably sitting around the same level as a pimento. Weedy. :-)

After the horrors of weigh-in on Thursday, at the weekend I drew up a menu and did a full shop. It has seen us through most of the week, with the addition of some bread and milk. My trolley was two-thirds full before I’d even made it out of the fruit and veg aisle. I wish I’d had a pic but I’d have felt a wee bit conspicuous photographing my own trolley. Besides, the absence of my own sent me to Flickr looking for pics to illustrate this post. There are heaps of great shots there, so it took me no time to find these, which I think are beautiful.

libraryman

jalb

I also found this, and I think you have to be told it is fruit and veg – it’s Thai carving, and I cannot imagine how long it takes to get that good, or how much veg you waste trying. I hope it all goes into a stockpot.

clayirving

As for SW, I’ve done well, and stuck to the plan all week, so I hope for a good result tomorrow evening.

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2012 by Eau de Nil. Please do not use my original text, recipes or photos without obtaining my permission in advance. Many thanks.

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