BBQ Quorn Nachos

Another veggie post! Where’s all the meat at!? Don’t worry my carnivourous friends, there will be some meaty posts coming up soon (with one in particular involving a chinese buffet and a frighteningly excessive amount of duck breast) but I’ve been cooking lots with Benj lately and that always means vegetarianism rules!

One Friday night last month, I wanted something trashy and American. To be honest, this is what happens every Friday night. And most Saturdays. And if I’m honest, pretty often during the week. Anyway, we had some Quorn mince hangin’ around, Ben hadn’t had Mexican food in about 2 weeks and was getting withdrawal symptons and I had a craving for avocado. The dish that met all of these requirements? Nachos! But not just any nachos. I often find the chilli sauces/seasonings too spicy, even with lashings of sour cream, so I prefer my mexican food with a heavy BBQ twist. If you’ve never tried BBQ mince or chicken with the usual tex-mex condiments like sour cream and guac, you seriously need to! It is so good.

This recipe, for me, SCREAMS Friday night! It’s super quick to make, generates minimal mess and washing up and it goes perfectly with alcoholic beverages. Perfect. We enjoyed ours catching up with our current TV show obsessions – Homeland, Dexter, The Walking Dead and American Horror Story. Seriously HOW amazing are all these shows right now!? We just need Breaking Bad back and I honestly don’t see us leaving the comfort of our (brand new, to be delivered in December :D) sofas anytime soon!

BBQ Quorn Nachos

The portion sizes got slightly out of hand here and we ended up having loads left over, so I’d probably say these serve 3 people, or possibly even 4 people with low hunger levels.

1 350g Quorn mince (or any supermarket own brand veggie mince – the Tesco one is amazing!)

tortilla chips – we used 2 packets of Sainsburys basics because they are a. cheap and b. cheap.

1 sachet of Old El Paso original fajita seasoning mix

1 tin chopped tomatoes

a big old hunk of cheddar – I feel cheese is a very personal thing so however much cheese you feel is adequate is the correct amount. I use a lot, because I like each and every mouthful to be fully encased by the stringy wonder-product.

1 avocado – this makes a lovely addition to the top of the nachos. Ben doesn’t like avocado (bit weird) so I had 1/2 on my portion and I really enjoyed it.

barbecue sauce – I used a few generous squirts of Heinz BBQ sauce to amp up the BBQ flavour but this is not essential.

optional – kidney beans, chilli powder, peppers, mushrooms, onions etc – ย basically anything you could add to a chilli will work well in this recipe. I hate kidney beans and prefer my chilli to be a pure, virginal meeting of (veggie) meat and sauce so don’t add anything extra. I realise this is odd though so add as you see fit.

1. Defrost the Quorn mince slightly either in the microwave or by leaving it out on the side for an hour or so. This just means you don’t have to add any oil to the saucepan to ensure it won’t stick, which saves on deadly calories.

2. Add the Quorn mince to the saucepan and saute it for a few minutes with a couple of tablespoons of the fajita seasoning. Add the chopped tomatoes and the rest of the seasoning and simmer gently. If you are opting to add in some more ingredients, do this now!

3. Grate your cheddar. Don’t be shy.

4. Taste the mince – add seasoning and extra BBQ sauce if needed. Arrange the tortilla chips on plates and add the cheese and mince ย – I opted for one layer of chips, one layer of cheese, one layer of mince and then repeated. Like a beautiful nacho lasagne. Top the lot with sliced jalapenos, avocado, sour cream or all of the above, and enjoy!

This is such an easy ‘recipe’ and it tastes like a lot of work went into it…but we know the truth!

A PROPER (vegetarian) PIE

For many moons now I have wanted to make my lovely boy a proper, fat, meaty, winter-warmer PIE. Pies are to boys, what salads are (unfortunately) to girls. The stereotypical British man spends his evenings tucking into massive plates of beef and ale pie, mashed potatoes and token greens, washed down with a pint of beer and darts on the TV. At least, in my head. But as we all know, this is not all men! And especially not lovely vegetarian men ๐Ÿ™‚

When Ben was a meat-eater, I’m sure he won’t mind me sharing that one of his favourite meals was that most repulsive of convenience foods – Fray Bentos pie-in-a-tin. With mash and veg. And probably a pint of squash, seeing as he wouldn’t have been old enough to drink. While there are few things he misses about being a carnivore (fish, funnily enough, being one of the only things) he does sometimes reminisce about FB pies with a dreamy, faraway look in his eyes. So I decided to challenge myself to make the meatiest non-meat pie I could, and this was the result!

First things first – fillings. I wanted something hearty, steaky and gravy-y. No chicken and white sauce over here thanks! Unfortunately, steak is one of the hardest flavours to replicate in vegetarian form and we had sadly run out of seitan – the closest taste/texture we’ve found so far. So, I settled for Sainsburys own ‘meatballs’ with some veggie sausages thrown in for good measure. The sausages were very herby and flavourful and added a hefty meatiness to the mixture without much effort, always a good thing.

I started, as always, with chopped onions and garlic. I also made myself a little pan of very finely chopped onions and garlic for my own dinner – mushroom-less, pastry-less pie. So basically just pie filling – I’m a bit weird and don’t really like pastry or the shedload of calories it brings to every meal. I also despise mushrooms unless they are super finely chopped. A kids version for me!

I chopped up the meatballs and sausages and added them into the pan, along with some big chunks of chestnut mushrooms. Then, a selection of seasonings including rosemary, sage, salt and pepper followed by a generous slug of ale. We were slightly overwhelmed by the selection of ales in the supermarket and so plumped for a bottle of bog standard Newcastle Brown Ale. I simmered the mixture for about ten minutes, adding more herbs as I went until it tasted lovely and hearty.

Once I was sufficiently happy with the taste of the filling, it was pastry time! For convenience I used a 500g pack of ready-to-roll shortcrust pastry. I divided the mixture into two balls of approximately 2/3rds and 1/3rd – the 2/3rds for the base and 1/3rd for the lid. It was then just a case of rolling the dough out with a bit of flour into a shape that would fit into the bottom of my pie dish with enough to line the sides. ย (Apologies for the jaundice photos, I am hoping Santa is going to bring me a shiny new DSLR for Christmas this year which will pretty much change my life, and this blog, for the better!)

I then spooned the mixture into the dish and it filled up nicely, about 3/4’s of the way up the sides. Next came the bit I was nervous about – adding the lid! But, it was really simple and with a bit of deft flipping and quick fingers, my pie was lidded. I ‘forked’ the sides to achieve that authentic pie effect and added some hearts to the top with some of the leftover pastry I had. Cute!

I brushed the top with milk and it went into the oven. I kept checking to make sure the pastry wasn’t burning but a medium heat seemed to do the trick. It emerged, shiny and golden, 45 minutes later and I cut into it with Ben watching eagerly over my shoulder.

Check it out! A proper pie!!

I served Ben a verrrryyy generous slice onto a plate already bulging with mashed potato, green beans and peas. I whipped up a quick gravy and his dinner was served. My dinner? Don’t worry about me, I had my tasty child-like pie filling and mash and was a very happy girl. A glass of wine helped immensely with this.

 

The filling was thoroughly ‘meaty’ – both in taste and texture. The medley of herbs combined with the reduced-down ale was really tasty and the Quorn meatballs broke apart slightly during cooking, which thickened the sauce. I really feel this is about as meaty as you can get with vegetarian pies – obviously vegetable and non-meat pies are delicious but sometimes it’s nice to just use fake meat as it was intended – a substitute for meat! In this instance, Quorn works extremely well and I really recommend this recipe if you or someone you love fancies a proper meat pie!

Quorn Fajitas

I feel like I’ve been posting a lot of restaurant and eating 0ut meals recently, so it’s time for a spot of home cooking!

We both love Mexican food and were big fans of ‘Friday Night Fajita’s’ during our Uni years. Fajita’s in particular are great because they are so versatile! You can stick with the basic version and just have the meat, peppers, onions and salsa, or go crazy and buy extra toppings like sour cream, guacamole and cheese to create deluxe fajitas. If I’m honest, I’ve never had a fajita that doesn’t involve cheese and we also always buy the extra toppings. Any chance to eat guac, I’ll take it. But if you wanted to, you really could just have what comes in the shop-bought fajita kits and they’d still be delicious.

We were particularly excited for our Mexican Night because we had a new type of veggie chicken to try! We actually went to Asda specially to buy their own-brand ‘chicken style pieces.’ I’d seen them online and a memory stirred of the now retired, but never forgotten, Sainsburys own brand ‘chicken style pieces’ which were without a doubt the best fake chicken we’d ever had. They were so convincing, in fact, that I actually stopped eating them the first time we tried them, as I thought there’d been a catastrophic mix-up in the factory! Sainsburys disappointingly stopped selling them a few years ago and we’ve never quite recovered. I like Quorn pieces but they get really boring and they don’t really have anyย flavour. The Sainsburys ones had a seitan-like texture and a herby taste that almost didn’t need any extra seasoning. Oh, how we miss them.

So, I was thrilled to see after ripping open the bag, that the Asda ones looked and smelt exactly like the Sainsburys ones! Result. I knew at that point, this Mexican Night would go down in history.

Mainly because we had margaritas.

(Although that is vodka, lime and lemonade in the glass because I’m a bit weird and don’t really like tequila. But Ben took one for the team and managed to force down the whole bottle.)

Here are some of the ingredients for our feast. Hello Asda Mexican quad-dip!! Possibly the best ยฃ2 you can spend in life.

We also had copious amounts of grated cheese, onions, peppers and of course, the ‘chicken style pieces.’ We were good to go! We started off chopping up our onions and peppers.

Note the amazing hot pink knife! Purchased in TK Maxx for the princely sum of ยฃ7.99! Definately going to buy a set of coloured knifes when we move out. They just make chopping so much more enjoyable.

Once we had chopped our veggies and defrosted the ‘chicken,’ we were ready to start cooking. We wanted to use different spices on our fajitas so needed two pans. Ben had chosen a ‘Mojito Lime’ sauce which smelled absolutely amazing when he put it on his chicken and I was kind of wishing I’d gone for that one too. But, I couldn’t resist my favourite “Original Smokey BBQ’ spice mix, which comes in the make-your-own fajita boxes, or you can buy separately for about 80p. Bargain! Sometimes I find the other Old El Paso fajita seasoning packet is too spicy and I just love the smokey flavour of barbecue in general. We sauteed the onions and peppers until they were cooked but still had some bite to them, before adding the chicken pieces which don’t take as long. We sprinkled our respective seasonings on and voila, fajita mix! So easy and they smelled sooooo good!

We then assembled all our items on the coffee table – you pretty much have to eat fajitas on the sofa watching Man Vs Food.

LOOK, a Hidden Mickey! If you don’t know what a hidden mickey is, please leave this blog and never darken my door again. Or, click here and find out everything you need to know! ๐Ÿ˜€

Quite the spread, no? That bowl of brown mush is Ben’s refried beans. I’m not a huge fan myself but he loves them and always gets them when we have Mexican food. You can also see the quad-dip in all it’s glory from this lofty birdseye position. Clockwise from top right; guacamole, sour cream and chive, nacho cheese and salsa. I like to slather the guac and nacho cheese onto my fajitas before adding the toppings – they act as a kind of glue to stick the tortilla together once folded!

I love the colours of the peppers, onions and chicken together! The peppers were actually perfectly cooked for me, as I hate when peppers are more or less raw in fajitas. Too much crunch – it isn’t a salad, people.

With all our ingredients laid out neatly, it was just a case of assemblage! I am not going to tell you how to assemble a fajita because quite frankly, you either have the skills or you do not. Ben is king of folding and recently put me onto a new technique that involves folding each side up and then rolling it length-ways, like a burrito. I prefer to fold up one end and then roll it up lengthways, so I have one open end, once closed end and a greatly reduced risk of spillage.

Innards shots! Note the beautiful front garden in the background. I was trying to get some photos with natural light in what is a very dark room with only one working lightbulb.

As you can see by the way the cheese and dips are literally busting to get out of the wrap, I consider toppings integral to the fajita process. In fact, I think if I only had cheese, guacamole and nacho cheese dip in a tortilla, I would still have a pretty good time.

Fabulous night, seize the opportunity to make fajitas next time you happen to have the ingredients on hand.ย You won’t be disappointed!

Fish in a tomato sauce with olives (+ a veggie version!)

Since the end of March (following 5 days of what can only be described as obscene gluttony at Disneyland Paris) I have been on a diet. But not a crazy, impossible-to-follow, ‘Lose 25 lbs in 2 Days!’ diet, an actual healthy eating and exercise plan that is working for me. I know! It’s a miracle. I’ve done every diet under the sun in my 24 years on this earth, the worst probably being the ill-fated Dukan diet which I followed last summer, consisting of a week of only eating meat, yogurt and 2 spoonfuls of Oat Bran a day to keep me regular. I lost weight but I was unhappy, grumpy and most importantly, famished! Crazy times.

My new savour is a little app called My Fitness Pal. Basically you download it to your phone (you can also access it on computers and it updates your account simultaneously on both, very clever) and enter your height, weight, how much you’d like to lose etc etc and it gives you a plan with a certain number of calories to eat per day. You log your food every day and also whatever exercise you do. I am constantly amazed by the almost incomprehensible database of food that MFP holds. You can type in almost any brand of almost any food and someone, somewhere will have logged the calories. Kind souls. You can also create recipes by typing in all the ingredients and how many people it serves and MFP will calculate the calories per serving size. What I love about MFP is the incentive it gives you to exercise! If I’ve eaten most of my daily calorie amount but really want a KitKat after dinner, I know I can go for a little walk, log it on the app and I will be rewarded with an ‘extra’ 100 or so calories to enjoy a treat. Saying that, most days I am coming in under my calories due to increased exercise and making better food choices and I often don’t ‘eat back’ my exercise calories. This is a hotly debated subject on the MFP forums and makes for interesting reading. I find I am losing weight without eating my exercise calories so I’ll probably stay doing that.

I’ve lost 11 pounds since the end of March so I’m really pleased and definately going to continue using the app. I’m not saying it’ll work for everyone but I’ve recommended it to quite a few friends and family and they all seem to love it! It really works for me as I have always found keeping a food diary to be really effective and with MFP, instead of jotting it all down every night in a notepad as I did when I was younger I can update my diary wherever I am on my iPhone.

*I realise I sound like I work for MFP and may be getting paid for this post but I legit don’t, just sharin’ the love!

So there will probably be quite a few healthier, low calorie blog posts coming up from food I’ve been experimenting with to stay within my daily limit. I love that nothing is ‘forbidden’ too, I can eat whatever I want as long as it fits or I do extra exercise to make it fit! I love food and I can’t imagine holding back when it comes to restaurant meals or special occasions and that is why MFP is probably working so well for me. Basically that is my way of saying there’ll still be the odd caloric behemoth on here as sometimes only a deep fried Mars bar will do the job!

*never actually had a deep fried Mars bar but that is the first example that popped into my head. Worryingly.

So, one such low calorie meal was dreampt up by me the other week when I fancied something for dinner that incorporated fish, olives, tomato sauce and a cheesy breadcrumb crust. I could not for the life of me find a recipe that ticked all these boxes so I decided to just wing it. The result was delightful! I also made a veggie version for my darling boyfriend which also turned out surprisingly well.

It was a super easy dish and came together in about 15 minutes, perfect for busy weeknights when all you really want to do is get a plate of food on your lap as quickly as possible so you can watch at least 3 episodes of Dexter before bed. Or is that just us?

I started with my meaty and veggie cooking stations. Does anyone else who cooks for a vegetarian do this? I have one meaty dish, one veggie dish, one meaty cooking utensil, one veggie cooking utensil etc etc all the way down to teaspoons for tasting. Can’t be having any cross-contamination! The basis of the veggie dish was the beautifully anemic fake chicken fillets, courtesy of everyones favourite vegetarian food supplier, Quorn. We both actually really enjoy these, once they have some flavour added to them. They don’t look so hot straight out the oven though let me tell you…

The basis for my one was originally going to be cod fillets but I panicked at the price in Sainsburys and instead opted for two of the finest pollock fillets, about ยฃ1.80 which I thought was astonishingly reasonable. I pan fried the fillets with lots of salt and pepper and they looked wonderful, if slightly rugged (I was paranoid they’d stick to the pan with my scant amounts of diet-sabotaging olive oil.)

I then heated up a mixture of chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, onions, garlic, oregano and sliced black olives until it was simmering nicely. I divided the mixture and ladled half on the Quorn fillets and half on the pollock fillets which were laying pretty in two ceramic dishes.

Finally I covered each version with a mixture of breadcrumbed WeightWatchers bread (only 50 calories a slice!) and finely grated cheddar cheese. I baked each dish for about half an hour until the breadcrumbs were browned and the sauce was hot throughout. I wasn’t too fussed on cooking times as obviously the Quorn and pollock was cooked beforehand so it was mainly a case of heating it all through.

We served the baked dishes with cubed potatoes cooked in a tiny bit of olive oil and lots of salt and pepper and oregano which turned out amazingly. Each dish made two generous servings – 2 Quorn fillets for Ben and 1 quite large pollock fillet for me.

These potatoes. Oh my lord.

The verdict? Delicious! The crunchy, browned breadcrumbs with the salty olives and rich tomato sauce worked together perfectly. It was really filling and I was pleased I’d chosen pollock once I found out they were 81 calories per fillet! That, my friends, is a calorie bargain. According to my calculations, one serving of the meaty (fishy?) version (minus the potatoes) was 280 calories. Add in the potatoes and you have a delicious, filling meal for around 450 calories. Obviously you could do without the cheese which would knock off about 100 calories but then it really would just be fish, tomatoes and olives and I think we all deserve slightly more than that. As long as you only use 30 grams of cheddar (and don’t eat another 30 grams while you’re cooking) the dish will remain low calorie.

We heated up the other halves in the oven the next day and we found them to be even nicer as the flavours had all mingled together in quite a pleasing way. Yum!