Author Archives: Hedonist

Amazing Indian Style Lamb Roast

In our household, a good measure of how tasty a roast or bbq is, would be the number of green chillies in it.

This lamb roast is no different. If I’m not sure whether the meat I’ve bought is brilliant quality or too goaty for my taste, there are a few things you can do to tip things on your favour.

1. Trim the fat

Meat generally isn’t very smelly, but fat is. So I started by taking my time removing all the obvious fatty bits from my half leg of lamb. It’s annoying, yes, but it really helps.

2. Marinade the hell out of it

If plain lamb isn’t your style, mix things up by making a potent Indian style marinade for it. Mine consisted of a handful of green chillies, blended with some yoghurt, lemon juice and Indian spices (red chili powder, garam masala, cumin powder). If you have a particular flavour in mind, feel free to change the spices. But lemon juice & green chillies are generally a good base for any marinade if you like things tangy and hot.

Oh and don’t be in a hurry, I left mine to soak up the flavours for 2 days before cooking. I suggest you at least let it rest in the fridge overnight.

3. Cooking method

If you worry that the meat you’ve bought might turn out dry and tough, a good way of cooking it is in a roasting bag. I love doing chicken this way, and luckily the half leg of lamb I had was about the size of a chicken so I could use the same bags. If you don’t have roasting bags you should probably cover the roast in foil for most of the cooking time and keep basting it.This is especially important since you’ve just trimmed off the fat which would otherwise keep it moist during cooking.

Now, before I forget what all I did in my fever induced delirium on Sunday, here’s the recipe.

Indian Style Leg of Lamb

Leg of lamb (or half) – fatty bits trimmed off

Marinade:

2 tbsp Yoghurt, preferably the thicker, Greek style one.

Some ginger & garlic (when in doubt, use more of it)

4-5 green chillies

Juice from 1 lemon

Blend the above together until you have a smooth paste. If you want to give your lamb a red colour, add some extra concentrated tomato puree. Season with salt, pepper, garam masala, red chilli powder, cumin powder, and whatever else smells nice. Since only some of the flavours will actually get absorbed into the meat, it’s a good idea to put in more seasoning than your instincts tell you. If you open the blender and the smell makes you cough, you’re on the right track.

Cover your lamb with the toxic mixture you’ve just prepared and let it sit in the fridge for a day or two.

On the day you’re intending to eat it, make sure you start cooking early enough!

Put the meat and a bit of the marinade into a roasting bag, tie it up securely (following all the instructions of course). Cook at 180 degrees Celsius for about 2 hours, while preparing your sides. We had a proper fusion meal by serving the meat with potatoes and gravy rather than the more logical option of naan breads or similar.

If your marinade is anything like mine, don’t throw the excess away! This can be used to make an amazingly spicy gravy to go with the meat.

Gravy:

Some oil/butter

1 onion

Leftover marinade

Splash of red wine

Meat juices

A few cherry tomatoes for some nice colour and fresh coriander leaves

Start by frying the onions until they’re well on their way to becoming caramelised. Pour over Red wine and add the cherry tomatoes. Then add the leftover marinade with some water to get it out of the container you put the meat into. Finally after your meat is ready, try taking it out of the roasting bag without burning yourself, and pour the juices from the bag into the pan. Despite trimming quite a bit of fat off the lamb before cooking, this made the gravy really really rich nonetheless! But who cares, the potatoes we ate were very greasy as well, this wasn’t going to be a healthy meal anyway.

If you like a thicker gravy, bind it with some cornflour.

Serve & Enjoy!


Alternate Day Fasting

The observant amongst you will note that this isn’t the first diet / lifestyle I’ve written about and therefore not the first time I’m trying to lose some weight. But, it has been the most successful so far. After realising multiple times that I simply cannot follow a Low Carb regime for too long, I had to try something a bit different.

What is it?

Alternate Day Fasting or Intermittent Fasting follows a very basic principle:

On every alternate day or a fixed number of days every week, you limit your calorie intake to 500 calories if you’re a woman, or 600 calories if you’re a man. On the remaining days, you eat whatever you like. A lot of people (myself included) find strict alternate days too extreme and instead opt to fast maybe 2 or 3 days a week.

This idea is quite appealing for the simple reason that when you’re feeling hungry and deprived of all things chocolatey and nice, you can keep yourself sane by thinking: “Tomorrow, I’ll eat a massive chocolate cake and it’ll be awesome.”

Most diets don’t allow for such treats, instead you’ll lose motivation thinking you’ll never get to eat a massive chocolate cake again, or gain all the weight back!
Why does it work?

The reason why you can get away with eating whatever you like every other day is that the average adult requires 1800-2000 calories a day to maintain their weight. If you eat only 500 or 600 on one day, in order to hit your average 1800 or so calories per day that would mean you’d have to consume 3100 calories the next day. But most people don’t. Instead they will eat perhaps a bit more than normal on the so-called “Feast” day, making the average calorie intake per day lower than 1800 or 2000 calories. End result: You lose weight. Even if you fast for less days per week, you still end up eating largely normal quantities of food on the remaining days. Your weight loss will be slower, but it should still happen.

And apparently that’s not all, there is some anecdotal evidence that fasting regularly causes blood cholesterol levels to reduce and generally improves your health. But that’s not why I’m doing it. I simply want to lose some weight.

But isn’t it really hard to eat hardly anything for a whole day, every other day?

That strictly depends on the person. At first, yes it’s hard. Before you find a rhythm and fallback foods and snacks that you can enjoy without exceeding your calorie limit for the day, you will find yourself hungry and cranky. But realistically, how is that different from any other diet?

Also, it gets easier once you get used to it because your stomach shrinks. You will probably find that due to this, you’ll end up eating even less on feast days

Typical Fast day for me:

Breakfast: nothing

Lunch: 1 slice of bread with ham or something else that isn’t too calorie dense – about 100 calories. Or: 1 apple / 1 grapefruit. Also around 100 calories.

Dinner: A simple small meal. For example: 2 eggs and 2 slices of toast ; around 400 calories. Or: Salad made up of chickpeas, onions and tomatoes. Or: Stir fried chicken breast tortilla wrap.

No snacks in between meals, except maybe some cucumber. I cheat a bit in that I still allow myself to drink tea with milk, which I don’t limit. But at least I don’t take my tea with sugar, that would probably be worse.

As for drinks: zero calorie soda or water. You do not want to waste calories on sugary drinks which will do nothing to keep you satisfied.

What if you have a dinner invite or party on a fast day?

You need to decide for yourself how strict you want to be about this. Because I did 3 days fasting a week, a dinner party or other event on one of my regular fast days would mean that I could catch up the fast day on another day. Or very often I wouldn’t and just skip it entirely. We also went on holiday once during this diet, which meant that we skipped a whole bunch of fast days without catching up.

What results can I expect?

This again differs per person. For some people this method of losing weight can be very effective, for others it might not work that well. The only way of finding out is by trying it for yourself. The first time I did this, I didn’t strictly do alternate days, instead I fasted on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, eating normally for the remaining days.

Still over the period of roughly 1 month and a bit, I lost around 5-6 kgs and 1 dress size. It is now 1.5 months later and I’ve kept the weight off, if anything I lost another 0.5kg during this time because my portion sizes have reduced.

If you’re more strict than me, perhaps you can hope for an even better result.

But, be warned: Don’t get too obsessive weighing yourself every day. Assuming you are “regular”, you’ll find that you weigh about 1kg less after a fast day than after a feast day. This is normal so it’ll take multiple measurements over time to figure out if you’ve lost any permanent weight.

 

So, I am currently on day 1 of my second round of alternate day fasting. And yes, I’m hungry. But I know it’ll get easier and I really do want to fit into some old clothes by Christmas! It’s still a much easier way of losing weight than following a Low Carb diet, or joining a gym.

 

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, only recycling information available elsewhere online from equally unqualified sources and describing my personal experiences. Please use common sense following this sort of diet and you should probably consult a real doctor if you have any health issues or doubts about this.


Chicken Liver Pâté

First post in ages, I’m sorry!

I’ve been busy, with god knows what. And right now I’m freaking out in the run up to Christmas because I’ll have people over and I’m not used to being a host. Anyway, I’m already preparing and planning, because there’s a little voice in my head that’s demanding everything will be perfect.

One idea for the Christmas menu that I’ve been playing with is doing a Liver Pâté. The recipes read quite straightforward, the only problem being I’d never done one, ever. Or cooked liver at all.

Well this has now changed…

I read a whole bunch of recipes before I started and I didn’t like any of them. Mainly because the vast majority of recipes specify that you sear the livers from the outside but leave them pink inside. This seemed risky because then I’d also read a news article about lots of people getting food poisoning due to undercooked liver. I decided not to take any chances.

Chicken Liver Pâté

300-350g Chicken livers (I got mine from Tesco)

125g Butter

Bay leaves, other herbs and spices you like

Salt, pepper to taste

dash of Blackcurrant vinegar (optional, if you like, use any other sweet flavouring)

Shallot or onion, if you like (I didn’t add this)

First, melt the butter in a saucepan, add your herbs and spices, then the onion or shallot if you’re using it and cook until glazed in the butter.

Trim any white/yellow bits off the livers, these apparently could give a bitter taste (I wasn’t about to take any chances so I trimmed anything that looked remotely suspicious!).

Livers during cooking

Add the livers into the butter, cook on a low heat, stirring regularly until cooked through. This took me about 10-15 minutes and I cut some pieces in half just to make sure they were cooked properly.

Take out the bay leaves and any other woody herbs if you’ve used them because they may ruin the texture of the pate after blending. Then transfer the livers and butter to a food processor or sufficiently large blender. The butter gives sufficient liquid to allow for easy blending. Add your seasoning; salt, pepper and in my case the blackcurrant vinegar. You may choose to add booze of some sort as well if you prefer. I tasted it to check the seasoning and found the taste to be quite odd and not really pleasant, but once cooled down the taste changed.

Once the Pâté is smooth enough for your liking, transfer to a bowl or jar and cover directly with clingfilm so the pate is not exposed to air. If you prefer you can also pour some melted butter over the top to seal the pate. Keep in the fridge to set, eat within a few days.


The most awesome chocolate cake ever…

Those that know me are already aware – I love cake. And I love chocolate. So obviously, I must adore chocolate cake.. Well in fact I am a bit picky when it comes to chocolate cake. A lot of them don’t hit the spot when it comes to chocolatey flavour, or some are so sweet and heavy that I can hardly finish a whole slice before keeling over from a sugar overdose.

And then along comes this recipe for a super fluffy spongecake that really made my day. I have had issues baking a good sponge cake for as long as I can remember. Not sure whether that’s due to technique or what, but it had eluded me until I tried this: http://bakingmum.blogspot.co.uk/2006/05/cotton-spongecake.html

Success on the first try! And because one good turn deserves another, I decided to do a chocolate version. Here’s what I came up with:

Chocolate variant of Cotton sponge cake

Ingredients A:
60g butter and 40g dark chocolate – melted
80g flour
2 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
100ml UHT milk (or more if the mixture is dry)
1 egg +5 egg yolks

Ingredients B:
5 egg whites
80g icing/caster sugar
Pinch of salt

1. As in the original recipe, beat your egg yolks together with the whole egg until you have a foamy, light mixture. The volume should at least double, otherwise it’s not fluffy enough. Use a manual whisk at your own peril, it’s quite hard work!

2. Add the milk and flour/cocoa mixture (make sure there are no lumps in this!), alternating between one and the other, incorporating it into the fluffy egg until evenly mixed. Then add the melted butter and chocolate mixture.

3. Whisk the egg whites until foamy, add the sugar with the pinch of salt little by little while still whisking (I’m not Wonder Woman so I use a handheld mixer for this and not a whisk). When the meringue forms soft peaks, you’re ready to combine both mixtures.

4. Gently fold the egg yolk/flour mixture into the egg whites, taking care not to lose too much of the fluffiness. Once it’s properly combined, pour into a lined / greased cake tin. I like to use a spring form type, because this cake does tend to stick a bit.

5. Bake for 25 mins at 175 degrees celsius, then 10 minutes at 150 degrees. Let it sit to cool down a little bit before removing from the tin.

Totally awesome chocolate frosting

I love butter cream, so I decided to make a chocolate flavoured one for this cake… The quantities below are just enough to lightly cover the above cake only from the top. If you want to have a layer of frosting sandwiched in between two tiers of the cake, double the recipe.

30g butter (room temperature)
50g icing sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder

6 squares of dark chocolate (melted carefully, and cooled down a little so it doesn’t melt the frosting too much)

Combine the above ingredients, whisking until properly combined. Add a splash of milk or perhaps some rum for a little kick; just enough to allow the frosting to become pliable. Whisk until fluffy and spread over the cooled down cake.

Enjoy!

(Photo will follow shortly)


Rhubarb & Strawberry Jam

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Rhubarb & Strawberry Jam

Rhubarb and strawberry is a classic and recurring combination. I may have gone against my aims for this year a little bit by buying the strawberries required to make this jam, but hey at least the Rhubarb was homegrown!

For this jam I didn’t follow a recipe as such, I just sort of made it up as I went along according to my normal jam procedure. I don’t like my jams to be very solid or overly sweet, so rather than the age old recipe of adding the same amount of sugar to fruit, I only use half. That is why I add pectin to help set the jam a bit, but not too much because I prefer a more liquid jam so it’s easier to mix into yoghurt and such. To be honest, I hardly eat jam on bread, mostly I put it in yoghurt or eat it with pancakes.

If you’re intending to spread it on toast and want a more solid texture, you may want to follow different instructions.

Ingredients:

Rhubarb stalks, cleaned and sliced 1cm thick

Strawberries – cleaned and quartered (or if the strawberries are huge, cut them in eighths)

Sugar (half the weight of the fruit)

Pectin (liquid)

Some lemon juice

Method:

Combine the chopped rhubarb, strawberries with sugar in a plastic/ceramic bowl. Let it sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours or until you can see plenty of liquid in the bowl. Then transfer the mixture to a sufficiently large pot and bring it to a boil. I prefer not to have hard chunks of rhubarb in my jam so I cooked it until everything had nearly fallen apart. If you like your jam with more solid pieces, reduce the cooking time as per your liking. Finally add the pectin according to its instructions (mine said use half a bottle for 1.5kg of fruit, but because I’m stingy and I didn’t want very solid jam, I used about a third of the bottle). Finish by simmering for another 2 minutes or however long the pectin instructions say.

Transfer the hot jam into clean glass screw top jars as soon as possible and close the lids. They should create a vacuum as they cool down.

Note: This is the method my mother taught me whose mother taught her etc. etc. etc. I am aware that nowadays it is considered dangerous to simply fill glass jars with nearly boiling jam and close them and you are meant to process them in a water bath in order to kill any remaining microbes. But I am stubborn and I can’t be bothered. If after a few months of sitting in the pantry, the jams have got fungus on them, I don’t eat them. Simple as that. And with regards to invisible dangers such as botulism, I’m working on the basis that botulism occurs in low acid canned foods such as vegetables, whereas all of the ingredients in this jam are fairly acidic, and the added pectin and lemon juice helps bring the acid levels up further. However if you are in any way concerned, simply process the jars in a water bath canner after you’re done.

Note 2: You may substitute the pectin and sugar for jam making sugar (this is sugar with jam already mixed in). If you wish to use powdered pectin, you cannot just add it to the boiling jam in the end or it will make unsightly clumps (don’t ask me how I know)! Please reserve about a cup of sugar to mix with the pectin when you need to add it towards the end.