Spicy roast tomatoes and red pepper soup (low carb, gluten free, and vegan)

I guess I should do a bit of life update here but it has been uneventful week here.  I am toiling away at work during the day and yesterday evening, we were meant to be going to dog training club but we got the traditional Scottish summer weather, rain and lot of it.  Nothing else for it than to write up one of my favourite soup recipes.  For me this recipe feels very summery and the fresh tomatoes and peppers make me think of summer, but equally the spiciness gives it some great warmth on a dull day.  It is another vegan recipe more by chance than design but decided to go with it in the way I served it last night, with a dash of coconut milk and some mixed seeds for texture.   I am on a fast day today on the 5:2 diet so this made an excellent evening meal for me, just needed re-heated in the microwave.

This soup takes little longer to prepare than some other ones, but most of the extra time is roasting the tomatoes, garlic, and peppers in the oven; it takes more time, but no extra effort.   If you are a confirmed carnivore and want to meat this is up, try serving with some pan-fried chunks of chorizo for dunking as they make an interesting alternative to croutons.

 

Ingredients (Serves 4)

2 mirabella red peppers or approximately 150g grams of red bell pepper

4 salad tomatoes

2 cloves of garlic

1 medium onion

2 tsp paprika (I use Spanish, bought on my travels last year)

¼ tsp cayenne pepper (adjust this to your own taste)

1 litre vegetable stock

500g passata

2tbs tomato puree

3 tsp olive oil

salt and pepper
Equipment

Roasting tray

Soup maker or large saucepan

Sharp knife

Chopping board

Wooden spoon or another stirring utensil

Blender (only needed if not using soup maker)

 

Method

1, Pre-heat oven to 200c, then chop tomatoes into quarters, chop and de-seed peppers and peel the cloves of garlic.  Place all the chopped vegetables in the roasting tray and pour over 2tsps of olive oil and give a toss to ensure all vegetables are coated.  Place in the preheated oven for 20-30 mins, it is ready when the edges of the pepper have started to colour.

2, Once the roasted veg has cooled slightly, remove the tomato skins and seeds, I don’t skin the pepper but you can if you have the time to do this.

3, Finely chop the onion and sauté this until softened and translucent in the remaining olive oil either in your pan or your soup maker.  Once the onion has softened, add the cayenne and paprika and sauté for 1-2mins to toast the spices then add the tomato puree and cook for further 2mins ensuring you are stirring at all times to avoid burning.

4, Add your roasted vegetables to the pan/soup maker along with the stock and passata and give a good stir to incorporate all the spices and onions through the stock.

5, If using soup maker select smooth setting and take a seat and let the soup maker do the rest.

6, If you are using the pan simmer the mixture over a low/medium heat for 20-30mins.

7, Once the soup has bubbled away for the required length of time remove from the heat and either blend until smooth either in a blender or with a stick blender.

8, It is now ready to serve, I had this with a dash of left over coconut milk and sprinkling of mixed seeds for some crunch. Season with salt and pepper

Cauliflower and Leek Korma (vegan & low carb)

 

Since starting to eat a lower carb diet in June I quickly found the cauliflower to become one of my favourite ingredients.  The cauliflower for me is a great base for a ton of different flavours and I am obviously not alone with this as the range of cauliflower recipes online seems to have grown massively over the last few months.  I have not yet tried many of them where the cauliflower is trying to pretend to be something else, such as cauliflower rice, or cauliflower pizza, and instead it should be celebrated as the star of the show.

I am massive fan of takeaway food and am lucky to have a great Indian restaurant in the town where I live, and in the past, I have never bothered with shop bought curries as they just did not really compare the excellent standard that I could order and have delivered.   When I started this new way of eating I thought I would need to give up my favourite creamy Korma but quickly realised that I could create a low carb version at home.   This lightly spiced almond and coconut sauce works well with chicken and fish, but I thought the sauce itself would enhance the humble cauliflower making it the star of the show and I was not wrong.  Cauliflower paired with sweet softened leeks not only means this dish is unbelievably tasty it is also gluten free and vegan, which makes it an easy crowd pleaser when having friends around.

I serve mine with some easy to make chickpea flat breads and if you leave me a comment I can add in the recipe for these. They are super simple and gluten free so a great choice for serving with it to mop up the creamy sauce.

Ingredients (serves 2)

400g (1 small) cauliflower

1 medium leek

1 chopped onion

2 cloves of garlic

30g ground almonds

4 cardamom pods (seeds only)

1tbs ginger chopped (either fresh or frozen)

1tsp garam masala

1/4tsp cayenne pepper (increase or decrease to alter the heat)

1tsp turmeric

235ml (1 cup) coconut milk

Fry light spray

Salt

 

Equipment

Chopping board

Sharp knife

Microwave suitable bowl

Saucepan

Wooden spoon

Pestle and mortar

 

Method

  1. Crush the cardamom seeds in the pestle mortar until lightly crushed, add the garam masala, cayenne pepper and turmeric to the pestle mortar and put to one side until needed
  2. Chop the cauliflower into florets, and clean and slice leek in to 1-inch pieces. Place both the leek and cauliflower in to a microwavable bowl with 2 tablespoons of water and microwave on full power for 5 mins or until cauliflower starts to become tender but still has a slight crunch.
  3. Chop onion, garlic, and ginger. Place the sauce pan on high heat add 2 or 3 sprays of fry light and add garlic, onion, and ginger.  Cook until the onions have softened and started to turn translucent.  Then add the spice mix and cook for 1-2 mins to toast off the spices add a tablespoon of water if the spices start to stick.
  4. Add the coconut milk and ground almonds and allow to simmer for 5 mins
  5. Drain any excess liquid from the leeks and cauliflower and add to the sauce, then simmer for 10 mins until the sauce slightly thickens and the cauliflower is tender.
  6. Serve and enjoy

Top tip – Basic sauce recipe can be used with chicken or fish if you prefer a meat option.

Lower Carb Roast Dinner (Sort of)

Let just start by saying this week has been a little hectic in my house and to top it all off the photos of the recipe I had for this week did not do it justice.  I have been out most evenings working on another project and at the weekend I spent the day with some friends solving a puzzle to launch a space craft.  Confused by the last bit, I spent most of my time confused while there, I was at Escape Room Scotland’s Velocity room in Stirling.

Tuesday was also my last day of the 8-week blood sugar diet and in the 8th week I have lost a total of 2st 3lbs.  I still have a bit to go and am now following the 5:2 diet (five days of eating a lower carb diet with 2 days of eating only 800 calories).   I am relaxing my rules slightly which may well be the start of a slippery slope when it comes to my diet as I had chicken fajitas on Saturday.  It was just one week and continued with my new-found way of eating for the rest of the week.

Sunday is my night for cooking a big meal usually a roast of some sort, this week I was short on time as I needed to be out most of the day, and this is where my handy slow cooker came in.   This whole meal can be prepared ahead of time, most elements are quick and easy to throw together in a matter of minutes if you forget when rushing about. I like to serve mine with lower carb Yorkshire puddings and roasted celeriac and Brussel sprouts.  The basics of this recipe are simple, just work out the timings before you start.

 

Cooking a Joint of Meat

Ingredients

500g roasting joint

500ml of stock

Salt pepper

Equipment

Frying pan

Slow cooker

Tongs

 

Method

1, Heat frying pan over high heat and place meat in it, turning occasionally until all sides are browned

2, Place hot stock and meat in slow cooker and set slow cooker to low and leave it for 6-8hrs to gently bubble away.

 

Roasted celeriac

Ingredients

300g celeriac

Fry light spray

Salt and pepper

Equipment

Roasting tray

Tongs

Knife

Chopping board

Sauce pan

 

Method

1, Pre-heat oven to 220 Celsius and place roasting tray in oven to heat.

2, Peel and chop celeriac into chunks approximately the size of roast potatoes and parboil in sauce pan for 5-10 mins.

3, Take hot tray from oven and put in the celeriac, spray with fry light and place in the oven.  I put these in to start roasting 10mins before the Yorkshire puddings and Brussel sprouts.

4, Roast for approximately 25 mins, turn after 10 mins and return to the oven with Yorkshire pudding and Brussel sprouts

 

Roasted brussels sprouts with pancetta

Ingredients

200g Brussels sprouts (frozen is ok, just chuck in the microwave for couple minutes to defrost)

25g pancetta cubes

Fry light

 

Equipment

Roasting tray (I put this in alongside the celeriac)

Knife

Chopping board

Frying pan

 

Method

1, Place pancetta cubes in frying pan and place on high heat until they start to turn golden on the edges

2, Place the Brussel sprouts and pancetta in roasting tray and spray with fry light and place in oven to roasts for 15mins (at the same time as Yorkshire puddings)

3, After 15mins remove from oven and serve

 

Yorkshire puddings

I got this recipe online and now I can’t find it anywhere or I would have credited the creator.

Ingredients

¼ cup gram flour (chickpea flour)

¼ cup milk

1 egg

6tsps Olive oil

Salt and pepper to season

 

Equipment

Jug

Measuring cups

Fork

Muffin tray

Method

1, Place muffin tray in the oven with 1tsp of olive oil in six of the spaces on the tray (I do this when celeriac goes in)

2, Mix all ingredient in the jug, it should be similar consistency to double cream

3, After tray has been in oven for 10 min pour the mix in to the six spaces with oil in them, it should sizzle and start to rise at the edges. Place straight back in the oven and do not open for 15mins

4, Remove from the oven when Yorkshire puddings have risen and are golden in colour.

 

If you are reading this, thank you as that was an epic list of instructions.  Next week will hopefully have bit more time to write and chat with you all.

Low Carb- Mediterranean Vegetable Bake

 

This weekend has been a little bit more hectic than planned in my household.  The weather was much better so Saturday included a long walk with the dogs at local country park then home to do some household tasks then out on a family bike ride.  This recipe was meant to be our Saturday night dinner but it ended up being served on Sunday.   We had a busy day planned for Sunday with family outing to dog’s day out at Glamis Castle, a fun event for dogs and their owners with lots of interesting dog toys and products on sale.  I returned home spending much more than planned on dog related items which I am sure are going to be invaluable to me.

The weekend has been over in a flash. I did however successfully serve up this Mediterranean veg bake on Sunday evening.  I will admit I did it in 2 stages, so start the prep Saturday to cut down on time needed on Sunday as if it had taken too long Sunday I may have gone for the easy of option of ordering a takeaway.  The lesson I learned is this can easily be prepared in stages to make it a quick and easy meal when you have busy day planned.  I am also planning to have the left overs for a quick lunch at work tomorrow as it reheats easily in the microwave.  This is my last few days of the 8 week blood sugar diet so making a final push to stay on plan and this meal works out relatively low calorie.

The bake is based on long time family favourite vegetable lasagne recipe, I have made some alterations to make the recipe both lower carb and gluten free.

Serves 4

Ingredients

Roasted Vegetables

1 Aubergine

400g/Large courgette

1 Orange pepper

1 Red pepper

1 Large onion

150g Button mushrooms

Low cal cooking spray

2tsp Italian herb mix

Tomato sauce

500g Passata

1 Onion

2 Cloves of garlic

1 Stick of celery

2 Bay leaves

Low cal cooking spray

Salt & pepper

Topping

100g Frozen spinach

250g Ricotta

50g Parmesan

2 tbs Milk

Salt & pepper

Equipment

Chopping board

Knife

Roasting tray

Lasagne dish or similar

Graters

Sauce pan

Mixing bowl

Wooden spoon

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius
  2. Chop the aubergine, courgette, peppers, mushrooms and 1 of the onions into approximately 1inch square dice (don’t worry about being exact it is just a guide)
  3. Spray a roasting pan with low cal cooking spray and place the chopped vegetables in it, spray more cooking spray on the top of the vegetables and give a good mix in the tray to ensure they are evenly coated in cooking spray.
  4. Place in your preheated oven for 30- 40mins check and turn the vegetables every 15-20mins of the cooking time to prevent burning.
  5. Either finely dice or use a food processor to finely chop the remaining onion, celery and the 2 garlic gloves
  6. Spray a sauce pan with low cal cooking oil and add the onion, garlic and celery to it and fry and until softened and translucent, at this point add the passata and bay leaves and leave to simmer for 20-30 mins until it has reduced and thickened slightly.
  7. Once cooked, remove the roasted veg from the oven and transfer to a lasagne dish, add the tomato sauce on top of the vegetables and stir to evenly coat all roasted veg in the sauce.  (At this stage I left the mix to cool wrapped in Clingfilm and put in the fridge overnight)
  8. Reduce heat of oven to 180 Celsius
  9. Defrost the frozen spinach (I use the microwave to do this), add the ricotta, parmesan and milk to bowl and stir to combine, once defrosted add the spinach and incorporate into the mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Add an even layer of the ricotta topping mix over the roasted vegetable mix in the lasagne tray.
  11. Place in the oven and bake for 40min or the filling is bubbling and the topping is lightly golden around the edges

Celeriac, Leek and Pancetta Soup

 

Since starting the 8 week blood sugar diet and lowering my carb intake I am always looking for quick easy lunch ideas to quickly prepare the night before or over the weekend and freeze.   Soup is not normally the obvious choice for a summer lunch but I live in Scotland and over the last week we have had both sunny summer days along with more autumnal downpours.  I made this soup as it was super easy and quick to make.

This new style of diet has led me to embrace previously unknown vegetables and the star of this recipes is one of those.   For anyone who has not seen a celeriac it is not the most attractive of veg but makes excellent mash, fries and great ingredient in soup, and gives a great creamy texture.  It has mild celery flavour but takes on other flavour if cooked alongside other foods.  I think it has a lightly citrus flavour.

I make a batch of this in my trusty soup maker but it can be easily made in a pot on the hob. I prefer my soup to have along with a smooth creamy consistency, tasty additions added when serving and the crispy pancetta cubes adds the extra texture along with additional flavour to the dish.    You can ditch the pancetta make this veggie, or vegan by changing out the stock for veg and topping with some crispy fried leeks for some added texture.

Serves 4

Ingredients

600g Celeriac

150g Leek (medium sized leek)

1 Clove garlic

1 Stick of celery

2 Ham stock cubes

100g Pancetta cubes

Black pepper/Salt

1tsp per serving olive oil (optional)

2 tbs Fresh parsley  (optional garnish)

Fry light spray

Equipment needed

Electric soup maker or large sauce pan & blender

Frying pan

Wooden spoon

Knife

Chopping board

Method

  1. Wash and remove the skin from celeriac, then chop in approximately inch square sized pieces. Prepare the leek by removing the outer leaves and length ways slice ¾ of the way down the leek and then rinse the leek under the tap fanning out the leaves to remove any soil trapped within it, then dice the leek in 1/2inch approximately.  Finally, peel and chop the garlic
  2. Add the stock cubes to 1.5 litre of boiled water in a jug and put to one side
  3. Spray either your pan or soup maker with fry light and sauté the leek and garlic until soft but not coloured at this stage.  Add the celeriac and stock.  If in soup maker, select smooth mode.  If on hob, leave to simmer for 20-30 mins.
  4. If using soup maker you can skip this step, once celeriac is tender (I usually test this by pushing against side of pan with wooden spoon and if it breaks up it is done).  Pop the soup in a blender or blend with stick blender until smooth. At this stage you can serve the soup or you can leave it to cool to be reheated later or frozen for another day
  5. Just before serving, put a frying pan on a high heat and add the pancetta.  I like to add the pancetta as the pan heats up as I find it releases more fat then crisps, but you can chuck it straight in a sizzling hot pan, both methods work.
  6. Once the soup is ladled in the bowl, add quarter of the pancetta to each bowl along with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley for colour.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Veggie twist

  1. Replace stock with vegetable stock
  2. Skip step 5 and save a small amount of leeks and fry these in hot oil until crispy to add some texture and a garnish to the top of the soup

If you try out the recipe and have put your own twist on it or have any other comments please let me know.

 

 

 

 

 

My first blog post, Lamb Kofta

 

Here it is my first blog post, I am new to this blogging lifestyle so not sure how to go about writing a blog but the only way to find out is to start one.  So currently I am following the 8 week blood sugar diet which is a lower carb Mediterranean style eating plan and for 8 weeks I am eating around 800 calories per day, I have talked more about this in my blog intro section if you want more info about this way of eating.   This plan has made become more creative in the kitchen creating some dishes which previously I would head to my local supermarket to buy.

I feel the food media has been sending me subliminal messages, since cooking this on Saturday everywhere I look there are lamb kebab or kofta recipes.  I suppose this is not a real surprise that at the time of writing this it is mid-July and BBQ season, although I cooked this on a very wet Saturday afternoon.   This recipe is super easy and quick to make but looks impressive served with some pickled chillies, cheese and other antipasti type bits and bobs.  I am going to be working on my photography skills and I am sure I will look back in the future and cringe at the quality of the photo to accompany this.  The recipe is both low carb and gluten free.

Lamb Koftas

Serves 2

Ingredients

250g lamb mince

½ teaspoon of ground cumin (I only had seed, just a give quick grind in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder)

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2 table spoons of fresh mint

¼ teaspoon Cayenne pepper (optional for those who like a spicy kick)

1 clove of garlic

Low calorie cooking spray

 

Equipment required

Chopping board

Sharp knife

Mixing bowl

Measuring spoons

Plate or tray

Frying pan/ griddle pan (can also be oven cooked or chucked on a BBQ)

4 Bamboo or metal skewers (Bamboo skewers should be soaked overnight in cold water if BBQ)

Method

1, Measure out coriander, cumin and cayenne, grind if necessary, (I use a pestle and mortar for the grinding stage as it gives you more control of the final texture of the spices).

2, Finely chop the garlic and mint then add to the bowl with the other spices.

3, Place 250g of minced lamb in a mixing bowl and add the spices and seasoning. Then use your hands to combine the ingredients until well mixed.

4, Lightly damping your hands, divide the meat mixture in to 4 even sized balls.  Take the mixture and shape into sausage shapes about 10-12cm and pop through the skewers and place them on a plate ready for cooking.

5, When ready to cook, heat up the frying /griddle pan over a medium heat. The kofta meat should be given an even coating of low calorie cooking spray to prevent them sticking before being placed on the pan.

6, Ensure the pan is hot and then place the Kofta on the pan, turning every 4-5 minutes once each side has had chance to gain a golden colour.  It should take around 12-15mins total cooking time, you will know when they are ready by splitting one open and there should be no traces of pink in the centre.

 

How I serve / accompaniments

I serve mine with a super simple homemade yogurt sauce ( I have added the recipe below) and some antipasti bits and bobs.  I had some cheese, sun dried tomatoes, grilled asparagus and broccoli and simple chickpea flat bread.  If you live with a carbivore (someone not following a low carb diet) this could easily be served on a wrap with some hummus, salad and some chilli sauce for extra heat.

Super simple yogurt sauce

This recipe is as simple as sauce can get, no extra chopping as it uses ingredients you will already be preparing for the Kofta.

Ingredients

4 tablespoons of unsweetened full fat Natural Yogurt

½ fat clove or 1 small clove of garlic

1 teaspoon of chopped fresh mint

Pinch of salt

Equipment

Bowl

Knife

Chopping board

Measuring spoons

Grater

Method

1, Place the yogurt in a bowl (I make this in the bowl I will serve it in) grate in the garlic and chop add the mint.  Stir all together and add salt to taste.  You can make this a couple of hours in advance or just before serving.