Saturday, 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas!!!

Merry Christmas to everyone and thank you for sharing and liking my recipes all year. I'm off to work today and the picture will be me about 4.30pm!! So whatever you are doing wishing you a really lovely Christmas.


Vicki xx

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Christmas smoked salmon pate (Slimming World friendly)

This is a really easy Christmas recipe perfect for serving as an appetiser or on a buffet table, You can serve it on the mini potato cakes I made in the previous recipe and as it's not a very firm pate so could also be served as a dip with raw vegetables. If you want to make it with a firmer texture just use less quark.

I know smoked salmon is expensive but it is Christmas and I know ASDA sell smoked salmon trimmings quite cheaply and those would be fine to use. I used 2 teaspoons of lemon juice for this recipe but I would start only using one teaspoon and season to taste as some quarks are sharper than others. There is no need for any salt as the smoked salmon is quite salty.

Smoked salmon pate  

100g smoked salmon
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tub quark
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.


syn free

Happy Christmas or Nadolig Llawen as they say here in Wales xx 

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Lemon and thyme chicken (Slimming World friendly)

Chicken again? Well yes but its such a versatile meat and this recipe is another one that is so simple to make and a great after work dinner . I used fresh lemons because I had them in and it makes it look prettier but if you only have bottled lemon juice in then it's ok to use that too .Whatever makes life easier :)

Lemon & Thyme Chicken

8 chicken thighs (skinned and excess fat removed)
2 lemons (1 sliced and one cut in half and juice squeezed over chicken)
1 red onion (sliced)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 clove crushed garlic 
salt and pepper
spray oil

Place the chicken thighs in an ovenproof dish and place slices of onions and lemon on top and between the chicken.

Sprinkle over the thyme, Drizzle over the lemon juice, salt and pepper and dot over the crushed garlic. Spray lightly with the spray oil.

Bake at Gas 5 /190/375 for 30-40 minutes ( every now and then spoon over the juices ) cook until the chicken is browned and sticky.

Syn free on extra easy and red. 

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Manchester Smokehouse and cellar - A review

I am a self confessed BBQ fanatic not in the sense of a back garden burnt sausage variety but the US style of low and slow like brisket smoked for hours until juicily tender, ribs and chicken tasty with rubs and smoked with love and attention. I am an enthusiastic amateur and bow down to the skill of the Pitmasters (and Mistresses) who know exactly how to control the fire and smoke necessary for great BBQ and so was very excited to have the chance to visit the new Manchester Smokehouse and cellar during a recent visit to see my daughter who is now living in the city.

The Smokehouse is housed in the city centre and was easy to find, My daughter was rather taken with the cow outside the premises as you can see and then on going inside found it to be a great space, A large light and airy room with a warm lighting which felt welcoming and cosy on a wet night.

The waiter was really friendly and we sat at the back of room near the door so had a good look at the whole room which was pleasantly busy on a Thursday night. We ordered a variety of items and we were spoilt for choice there was so much good sounding items on the menu. We had brisket and burnt ends for us to share and then my husband ordered beef rib, I ordered baby backs and my daughter wanted the prawns which unfortunately weren't available that day but the waiter recommended the monkfish skewer and we also had sweet potato fries, smothered fries and onion rings.

O-M-G it was incredible the brisket and burnt ends were so tender it was unbelievable the flavour was so good I give up on ever being able to produce anything like that at home. They were served with traditional  light crunchy pickled vegetables which were the perfect accompaniment for the rich meat.  The baby back ribs were everything I hoped they would be gorgeously tender and just coming away from the bone with a tasty rub they were so good. My husbands beef rib was delicious, tender and full of flavour. You could tell the quality of the meat as well as the care that had been taken to cook it I know from smoking meats myself how hard it is to get it just right. The side dishes were really amazing too the smothered fries, sweet potato fries were fab and you can see from the pic the size of the onion rings (where do they get their enormous onions from??) My daughter really enjoyed the monkfish skewer she said it was perfectly cooked really fresh and light.

We were way to full for dessert but did manage to fit in a few cocktails which were lovely I had the espresso martini and have to say one of the best I have ever had it was not too sweet which is always good and my daughter loved her porn star martini and her 'apple of my eye' cocktail (You can tell Mum was paying for dinner!)

I was able to talk to Jason Latham the Pitmaster of the Smokehouse while we were there I have 'spoken' online to him previously and he was so friendly in person, He explained they had only been open for 9 weeks and he has big plans to extend the space even more which gives me a even better reason to visit again. You can tell he is a perfectionist and wants everything to be just right and was saying about the quality of the meat he uses and when he said  the hours he has put in to make the place work it's clear the man really has the passion for BBQ.

I really enjoyed our time there and will definitely be back and if you are ever in Manchester make sure you pay the place a visit.

Tandoori chicken (Slimming World friendly)

This is a really tasty and easy recipe to make. I used 'East End' tandoori spice powder which is syn free but do check which Tandoori spice you use as they are not all syn free. I bought mine in a small shop in Cardiff but I have seen that brand on sale in Morrisons.

This recipe is another great after work dinner as you marinade the meat in the morning and just cook it in the evening. The yogurt and lemon juice make the chicken really tender, I used chicken thighs as I think they have more flavour but you can use chicken breast if you prefer.

Tandoori Chicken

8 chicken thighs (boneless, skinless and trimmed of all visible fat) OR 4 chicken breasts
2 tbsp tandoori spice powder
4-6 tbsp fat free natural yogurt
2 tsp lemon juice

Place the Tandoori powder, yogurt and lemon juice into a bowl and mix well. Put the chicken into a dish and make shallow cuts into the meat to allow the marinade to penetrate, pour over the marinade and mix well so all the chicken is thoroughly coated. Cover and leave in the fridge for at least 4 hours but as said I like to do this in the morning to cook in the evening.

Line a roasting pan with foil (saves on the washing up) and place the chicken in the pan along with any leftover marinade. Cook at Gas 6/200/400 for 30-40 minutes or longer if necessary until the chicken is cooked and browned.

You can also cook it under the grill if you prefer just ensure the chicken is thoroughly cooked.

Syn free on extra easy and serves 4

Monday, 14 November 2016

Diet Coke Chicken (Slimming World friendly)

Now to some of you this might sound odd but believe me it is delicious, Its another super quick dinner. The vegetables give it colour and freshness , Once the sauce has reduced it makes a lovely sticky syrupy BBQ tasting sauce but you have to persevere and simmer it right down it doesn't make a lot of sauce but it coats everything so its tasty. I served it with spring greens and rice but it's good with noodles and stir fry veg too..

Diet coke chicken

2 large chicken breasts (or 6 chicken thighs skinned and boned trimmed of fat)
2 peppers (red, green yellow whatever colour you like) bell peppers for my US friends
6oz mushrooms (quartered)
1 large onion (sliced )
1 can diet coke
4 tbsp passata (sieved tomatoes )
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
spray oil

Place a wok or large deep frying pan or wok over a high heat and spray with oil, Add the chicken,  onions and peppers and stir fry until the vegetables are soft and the chicken id cooked . Add the mushrooms and stir fry for another couple of minutes.

Pour over the can of diet coke, the passata and add the worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce is reduced, thick and syrupy , You really need to have patience because just as you think its not going to happen it will :  )

Syn free on slimming world....  enjoy!

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Slow cooker chicken stew (Slimming World friendly)

This has got to be the easiest recipe to make and it's also a good one for clearing out your veg drawer in the fridge. You simply put everything in the slow cooker, turn it on and when you get in from work it's ready to eat. The amounts I have given make loads it served six of us last night but you can make as much or as little as you like.

 Increase more of the veg you like or don't use meat at all and make it vegetarian. It''s also a good one to prep the veg and chicken the night before and just put it all in the slow cooker in the morning. Simple and delicious.

NOTE: I have a HUGE Swan slow cooker please halve this recipe if you only have a smaller slow cooker Xx

Slow cooker chicken stew

8 chicken thighs (skinned, boned and trimmed of fat) cut into large chunks
4 large carrots (peeled and chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
4 sticks of celery (peeled and chopped)
2 large leeks ( sliced)
1 bag (2kg) new potatoes (cut into 4 or 6 pieces)
1 pint chicken stock (from a cube is fine)
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Put everything in the slow cooker, Mix well and cook on low for 6-8 hours but it can happily stay there a bit longer if you need it to.

Syn free

Monday, 31 October 2016

Halloween meringue ghosts (Slimming World friendly)

I just made these for my Halloween party in my Slimming World class tonight, I have tried to make meringues with sweetener before and it just doesn't work well so I did use sugar but less than usual to make these (hence 1 syn each) but it's not too bad as a sweet treat just try not to eat them all!

Halloween Meringue Ghosts

4 large free range egg whites
8 tbsp caster sugar
pinch salt
tsp lemon juice

When making meringues you have to ensure everything is spotlessly clean as any speck of grease will stop the egg whites from whisking firmly. Place the egg whites and a pinch of salt  in a large bowl and whisk until the are forming stiff peaks, Gradually add the caster sugar a spoonful at a time and keep whisking until all the sugar is added then add the lemon juice and whisk for a couple more minutes.

I used a plastic bag with the corner cut off as a piping bag, Just fill the bag with the meringue and just pipe little swirls of meringue onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment.

Bake in a very low oven gas 1/2/100/200 for about an hour then turn the oven off and leave them to cool completely in the oven.

I had some black icing so just put two little dots as the ghosts eyes once the meringues were cooled.

Makes about 28 and work out 1 syn each.

Happy Halloween!!

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Thai green chicken curry (Slimming World friendly)

I LOVE Thai green curry (or is it green thai curry? I can never remember) but the usual recipes are not slimming world friendly the coconut milk and curry paste make it too high in syns usually but this version gives you all the delicious flavours but is much lower in fat and syns.

The coconut milk I use is a lower fat version and as the recipe only call for 100ml and the can is 400ml I freeze the rest in 100ml portions in small plastic containers so its pretty economical too.

Unfortunately you can't make this veggie as there is fish sauce in the curry paste but I always add loads of veg to this recipe this version uses green beans, spinach, water chestnuts and bamboo shoots  but you can add any other veg you fancy (and leave out any you don't!)  beansprouts, mushrooms whatever you like.

The sauce is supposed to be like a broth so don't panic if you think its supposed to be thick the lightness of the sauce makes it even more tasty to serve over rice as its absorbs all the flavours.

Thai Green Curry

8 chicken thighs (skinned, boned and trimmed of fat) cut into small pieces
100ml low fat coconut milk
2 tbsp thai green  curry paste
2 tbsp soy sauce
400ml chicken stock (from a cube is fine)
pack of fine green beans (trimmed and cut into pieces) 
can of beansprouts (drained)
can of water chestnuts (sliced and drained)
1/2 bag of washed spinach.
fresh coriander leaves (chopped)

Place chicken in a wok or large deep frying pan and stir fry over a medium heat until browned then add the curry paste and stir fry for a few more minutes.

Add the stock, coconut milk, soy sauce and green beans and simmer for 20 minutes and then add the water chestnuts and bamboo shoots and simmer for another five minutes, Finally add the spinach and stir in until wilted.

Sprinkle the chopped coriander on each bowl before serving.

Serves 4 at 2 syns per portion

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Boulangere potatoes (Slimming World friendly)

   This is a really easy recipe but looks impressive when dishing it up for dinner. It makes a nice change on a Sunday instead of roast potatoes and even though it takes a while to cook it is easy to prepare you just leave it in the oven to do it's own thing. If you aren't keen on garlic you can leave it out it still tastes good. I like thyme as a herb in this but you can vary the herbs as you like rosemary is nice with lamb or even a few dried mixed herbs. Best of all it's syn free :)

Boulangere Potatoes

4 large potatoes (peeled and thinly sliced)
1 large onion (peeled and thinly sliced)
1 pint vegetable stock (from a cube is fine)
1 tsp thyme
2 cloves crushed garlic
low calorie spray oil

Spray a frying pan with spray oil and fry the onions until soft, Spray a large casserole dish or roasting tin with spray oil and layer the onion and potatoes with a little thyme, garlic and pepper between each layer finishing with a layer of potato.

Pour in enough stock until the potatoes are scarcely covered, you might not need it all, Then spray the top with oil and bake for 2 hours on gas 4 / 180/350 until brown and crispy,

Serve 4-6

syn free

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Easy slow cooker beef curry (Slimming World friendly)

This is an amazingly easy dinner you just throw in all in the slow cooker and when you come home from work ta-dah!! It's all ready for you : )

Slow cooker beef curry

2 lb lean diced beef
2 large onions (sliced)
1/2  tsp chili flakes (or fresh chopped chili if you prefer)
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp turmeric 
3 cloves garlic (crushed)
thumb sized piece of fresh ginger (grated )
(or I use frozen garlic and ginger paste )
1/2 pt beef stock (from a cube is fine) 
salt to taste 

Put everything in the slow cooker stir well and cook on low for 6-8 hours . When you get home take off the lid and turn it up to high for the last hour so the sauce can thicken and reduce . Taste for seasoning in case it needs a little salt. 

syn free 

Lamb biryani (Slimming World friendly)

I love this biriyani it's so easy and means you don't have to cook rice separately for dinner. It doesn't take long to make either and also when it's cooked it sits quite happily in the pan with the lid on for a while without overcooking.

You can also make it as hot or mild as you like I tend to use a medium curry powder it's not too hot but has flavour.

If you want a curry sauce to go with this I have a recipe for that too you can find that by clicking here or you could use the Slimming World frozen one which is available in Iceland.

Lamb Biriyani

500g lean lamb (diced)
1 large onion (thickly sliced)
2 large carrots (peeled and diced)
1 pack green beans (trimmed and cut into pieces)
3 cloves garlic (crushed)
thumb size piece of root ginger (grated, or use from frozen or a jar)
2 tbsp mild or medium curry powder
250g basmati rice
500ml beef or lamb stock (from a cube is fine)
low calorie spray oil

Spray a large frying pan or wok with spray oil and fry the onion until slightly soft and add the lamb, garlic and ginger and keep frying over a medium heat until the lamb has started to brown and the onions are soft.

Add the carrots and beans and sprinkle over the curry powder and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the rice and stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat so it's just simmering. Put a lid on or cover with foil and leave to simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove the lid and check the rice is cooked it's ok if its a little firm as it will carry on cooking for a while when it's standing.  Add salt if needed (might not need it ) then cover and leave to stand for five minutes.

Serves 4-6 generously

Syn free

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Galinhada (Slimming World friendly)

I saw this recipe in the Slimming World magazine and thought would give it a go and I was really pleased with the results. It's a Brazilian dish I'd never heard of before but have made it a few times now, The only thing I did differently was not to use the saffron that's listed in the original recipe as I didn't have any in and it's really expensive so didn't want to buy it just for one recipe.

It's really tasty sort of like a paella (you use paella rice) I also changed the method slightly just to make it a bit easier and anyway the family loved it and it makes loads! I froze some and it was fine just the rice went a little soft on reheating.


8 chicken thighs (skinless and boneless cut into chunks)
2 large onions (sliced)
4 garlic cloves (crushed)
2 red pepper (deseeded and sliced)
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
250g paella rice
1 tin chopped tomatoes
650ml hot chicken stock (from a cube is fine)
150g frozen peas
low calorie spray oil

Spray a large pan with the spray oil and add the chicken, Fry over a medium heat for about 5-10 minutes until chicken is browned then add the onions and garlic and fry until the onions are soft.

Stir in the peppers, paprika and rice and cook for another 3-4 minutes then add the tomatoes and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes and then add the peas, Stir well and cover either with pan lid or some foil and leave on the heat for 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 4 generously and is syn free :)


  I know I never really use much butter in my slimming world recipes but I've been thinking about that. I recently stopped buying low fat spreads as I have recently discovered in reality they are really not THAT different in syns to butter and the taste difference is incredible.

Most low fat spreads are 1- 1 1/2 syns a teaspoon

Butter is 2 syns a teaspoon

 Hardly any difference!!

I have noticed some of these spreads also have all sorts of oils and additives and was considering that when I'm cooking from scratch I should try and use good products as much as possible. So not a very long blog post but just wanted to put it out there. If a recipe calls for even a tablespoon of butter which may well be a what seems high 5 1/2 syns if that recipe serves 4 people then it's only just over one syn per person and the flavour will be so much better.

I also bake for friends and family luckily enough I don't have  sweet tooth and I always use butter for baking as it does give a superior bake in taste and in results. I was lucky enough to be given a new butter to try lately called Softer Butter and it's amazing. The butter is 100% butter no added oils which is what is usually added to make butters spreadable and I have no idea why it's softer it just is,

I was baking for Macmillan coffee morning for work and was making Creamy lemon oat bars (NOT Slimming World friendly!!) for a good cause and I forgot to take the butter out of the fridge to cream it with the sugar, flour and oats to make the bars base. In the past I would have microwaved it for a few  seconds but you run the risk of melting it too much. So, A good chance to try the SofterButter and it really worked! I put it in the KitchenAid straight from the fridge and it mixed beautifully I really didn't expect it to but I was impressed.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Flora Cathays Cardiff ... A review

I was lucky enough to be invited to go to the relaunch of The Flora the other week (apologies for the late review). I have never visited this pub before but found it easily a quick ten minute walk from Cathays train station and its there on the right.

First impressions were very favourable the bar area was airy and light and although not many there when we arrived the bar staff were really friendly and chatty. My friend and I decided to indulge in a couple of cocktails and they were delicious. I had a Flora Fizz which was gin based with mint and cucumber and I could really smell and taste the cucumber it was very refreshing my friend had a Strawberry cocktail which she said was gorgeous they went down very well and competitively priced at £5 each.

Our starter came out and was a deep fried breaded goats cheese which was very tasty and was served on a salad with slivers of crunchy apple which made the salad interesting and bright drizzled with a honey mustard dressing

The second course was fish goujons coated with a Barry Island IPA batter which was light and crispy, Served alongside with it was a  homemade tartare sauce which came in a cute little glass lidded jar which could have been a bit bigger to be honest as you couldn't dip into it but it was sharp with gherkins and creamy. Another dish on the board were small dishes with lamb meatballs which were lovely with a mint, honey and yogurt sauce to accompany it. Two different types of fries came along with this one lot with rosemary and garlic and the others were paprika both of which were really good my friend and I had to split them between us as we couldn't decided which we liked the best I think I fought harder for the paprika ones to be fair but they were both fab.

Our dessert was very interesting a cup of vanilla ice cream with a syrup made from Brains S.A. we were told that it was made with a the beer along with brown sugar and dark chocolate now I'm not keen on beer so was a little wary but it was to die for really dark and sticky reminded me of treacle toffee which is always a good thing.

Unfortunately due to train times we had to run to catch the train and didn't get a proper chance to thank everyone for their hospitality and by the time we left the place had really filled up and was lively with chatter, I could see there was a good selection of beers available and the wine list looked pretty good too.

It was lovely to see that an effort was made to include local ingredients on the menu and while its no where near local to me I shall definitely be paying a return visit for the food and cocktails.


Saturday, 24 September 2016

Porky sausage patties (Slimming World friendly )

You can buy Slimming World friendly sausages but not everyone likes them, This super quick recipe makes delicious syn free sausages only thing is they aren't in skins but doesn't bother me you can roll them into sausage shapes if you prefer but I just make them into patties.

The good thing is once you have made them next time you can add more some things and less of others however you like it, I sometimes add some chili flakes or more sage just play around and see which you like best. You can pick up garlic and onion powder (also known as granulated) with the herbs and spices in the supermarket.

Porky sausage patties

500g pork mince (less than 5% fat)
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
low calorie spray oil

Simply put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix together REALLY well best to either use your hands or you can whizz it in the food processor just for a minute.

Just take tablespoons of the mixture and roll into balls then put them in a frying pan lightly sprayed with oil then press them down lightly to make patties.

Fry over a medium heat for a bout 5 minutes each side. Check they are thoroughly cooked through but try not to overcook or they will be dry.

Makes about 8

Syn free

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Rustic creamy mashed potatoes (Slimming World friendly)

I love these potatoes and so easy to make you don't even peel the potatoes but you have to choose the right variety of potato. I use Marabel which I buy in ASDA which are thin skinned but suitable for mashing. I have used the red rooster potatoes too they are very good.

The picture also shows the turkey meatloaf  which I served with the mash and the recipe for that can be found by clicking here

Rustic creamy mashed potatoes

1 kg potatoes (see notes above)
1/2 tub quark
1 egg (beaten)
1/2 bunch chives (chopped)
salt and pepper

Cut the potatoes into smallish chunks and cook in boilng salted water until tender. Drain well and while still hot add the quark, chopped chives and beaten egg and mash, You aren't looking for a smooth mash because the skins give it texture (hence the rustic name!) Season with salt and pepper about a tsp of each and mix very well.

Syn free

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Hunters Chicken (Slimming World friendly)

I love this recipe it feels so naughty but it's not if you use the cheese as your healthy extra it is syn free.

To make it I use my homemade BBQ sauce you can find the recipe for that here (just click on the word 'here') it's really easy to make and worth making and keeping it in your fridge.

 If not using the cheese as a healthy extra 25g reduced fat cheddar cheese is 4 syns but as a healthy extra you can have 40g of reduced fat cheddar cheese.

All the quantities are per person.

Hunters Chicken

1 chicken breast
2 smoked bacon medallions
4 tbsp homemade Slimming World friendly BBQ sauce
40g reduced fat cheddar cheese (healthy extra)

Wrap the bacon around the chicken breast and place in an ovenproof dish. Spoon over the BBQ sauce to cover the chicken and sprinkle the cheese on top.

Place in an oven Gas 6/200/400 for 25-30 minutes until cheese is browned. I served with potato wedges and salad.

Enjoy :)

Friday, 26 August 2016

Tasty turkey meatloaf (Slimming World friendly)

This meatloaf recipe is one of my families favourite dinners and it's simple to make just mix and place in a loaf tin for an hour while you can get on and do other things.

The cooked onion mixture makes the meatloaf really savoury and I left out breadcrumbs to save syns and don't think you notice the difference .

 I served this with bisto best onion gravy 2. 1/2 syns for 142ml and veg and another comfort food my version of sour cream and chive mashed potato (recipe to follow another day : )


500g turkey mince (less than 5% fat)
1 large onion (chopped)
1 chicken stock cube (crumbled)
100ml water
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 egg (beaten)
Low calorie spray oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Spray a small frying pan with spray oil and fry the onions gently sprinkled with salt until onions are soft.

Add stock cube, water, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, tomato purée and pepper and simmer until almost all the stock has absorbed. Leave to cool for 10 minutes .

Place mince in a bowl with the beaten egg and add the onion mixture and mix very well. You can use your hands or a food mixer.

Place in a loaf tin sprayed with oil or use a silicone one. .

Bake on gas 6/200/400 for 1 hour.

Syn free

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Nigella praised chicken

This recipe I first saw Nigella make on an episode of 'Kitchen' and thought at the time it looked so lovely and tasty and a brilliant way of making chicken go a long way. I honestly thought I would have to add some chicken stock cube or such like to the broth afterwards but no I think if you use good quality chicken it makes the most delicious tasty broth, If however when you make it you feel it lacks flavour feel free to add some chicken stock concentrate or a chicken stock cube. The chicken is soft and really juicy and the vegetables tender.

Nigella makes it with a whole chicken but it's very fiddly to remove the skin and fat from a whole raw chicken so I use a mixture of thighs and chicken breast and also this way if you only like chicken breast you can make it that way but I think chicken thighs have much more flavour.

I also love to reheat the next day with some broken pieces of spaghetti in so its like chicken noodle soup but be careful just make sure its reheated very well.

Oh and its called 'praised' chicken as Nigella says its a cross between braised and poached and was one of her Mothers favourite recipes so to make it seems like an act of devotion which I think sounds so lovely.

Nigellas Praised Chicken

1 chicken breast and 4-6 chicken thighs all fat and skin removed.
3 large carrots (peeled and cut into chunks)
2 sticks celery (cut into chunks)
2 leeks (washed well and cut into chunks)
salt and pepper
1 tsp dried or fresh thyme
1 tsp dried or a bunch of fresh parsley (chopped)
low calorie spray oil

(You need a large pot that can fit the chicken portions in comfortably with all the vegetables)

   Spray some oil into the pot and heat then place the chicken in for a few minutes until slightly browned.

Drop in the vegetables and herbs around the chicken with a good grinding of salt and pepper then just cover with cold water and bring to the boil.

Place a lid on the pot and then simmer on a low heat for about  1 hr and then leave it sitting in the pot for another 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken portions from the pot and place on a board leave to cool for a little while  cut into chunks and put the meat back into the broth.

Taste for seasoning you might need more salt and pepper.

I served it (as Nigella did) over plain boiled rice.

serves 4-6 and is syn free

Friday, 5 August 2016

Easy turkey kofta kebabs

I use turkey mince a lot in cooking it's a bit lighter in taste than beef and for this recipe it helps to hold the shape of the koftas better. I know lamb is traditional for koftas but you can't really get extra lean lamb mince unless you get it minced yourself.

This is a really quick recipe too just make up the mix, shape it, pop in the oven and its ready really quickly.

I served them in a pitta bread but there aren't any healthy extra pitta breads now (there used to be) but they are also good with salad and SW friendly chips or wedges.

Easy turkey kofta kebabs

500g turkey mince (less than 5% fat)
1 red onion (grated)
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder (or 1-2 cloves grated)
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
low calorie spray oil

Preheat the oven to gas 6 /200/400

Place all the ingredients together apart from the oil in a mixing bowl and just mix it all together really well the best method is to get your hands in and squish it all (children love doing this!)

Shape in either 8 sausage shapes or 4 large sausage shapes, Spray with oil and place in an foil lined tray or use a disposable foil tray (saves clean up later) and place in the oven for 20-30 minutes until browned.

Syn free koftas (pitta bread approximately 6-7 syns if used)

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Glazed hoisin salmon (Slimming World friendly)

This is a really quick and easy tasty dinner, To make it you need proper hoisin sauce not the sachets of stir fry sauces but the real thick Chinese sauce. It is so lovely and rich you only need a little to make this dish and is well worth buying it keeps well in the fridge for ages.

Salmon is such a fab quick dinner especially in the Summer so I love to find new tasty ways to cook it. I often usually serve this with some either stir fry vegetables and rice or as seen in the picture broccoli and some simply cooked egg noodles.

Glazed Hoisin salmon

2 tbsp Hoisin sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
4 salmon fillets (1 per person)

Line a roasting tin with foil to save cleaning a messy pan later and lay the salmon fillets in the tin. Mix the soy sauce and hoisin sauce together well and brush over the salmon fillets making sure you cover the tops and the sides with the thick sauce.

Place in a hot oven pre heated to Gas 6 /200/400 and roast for 20-30 minutes (depends how big the salmon fillets are). Every now and again check and if the sauce is in the pan spoon it over the salmon to make sure you get all the sticky sauce over the salmon.

Serve 1 fillet per person with stir fry vegetables and rice or noodles and broccoli

Serves 4 at 1 syn per portion.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Jols Restaurant Merthyr Tydfil .. A review

I have been meaning to write this review for ages but holidays etc got in the way so finally here it is. I was so excited when I heard Jol's was opening in Merthyr Tydfil. I had heard of Jamie O'Leary and Jol's from the Cardiff street food scene and knowing he had trained with Stephen Terry at The Hardwick meant I thought it was going to be something special. I live in the Cynon Valley but work in the Merthyr Valley and Merthyr does not have a reputation for fine dining so it was so brave of him to undertake this venture but it seems to have certainly paid off. I was lucky enough to receive a voucher from my lovely Nursing team and managed to visit in June.

The building housing Jols has been beautifully refurbished and on the evening we visited all the windows were open which made it a light and airy space, I would imagine in the winter it would be a cosy, intimate venue. There are bigger tables for larger parties downstairs but the main dining room has various tables at different levels so it doesn't seem too crowded.

My starter was confit rabbit leg terrine with pickled spring veg, piccalilli puree and sourdough crisp. This was lovely so light and not gamey at all the pickled veg made it really fresh tasting. My husband had the pan fried scallops with hummus, ras al hanout spiced cauliflower,raisins, almonds, coriander and grilled flatbread. We always share a taste of our meals when out so we get to try a bit of everything and I loved this dish too. I would never have thought of hummus with scallops but the delicate scallop was wonderful with the rich hummus and light spices.

For our main course I had Home cured collar of pork with spring cabbage, salt baked turnip, braised stem artichokes, sage and minced collar sauce. This was so good, really tasty and although it sounds like a heavy dish it really wasn't it had really rich flavours and I love sage with pork and you could really taste it in the sauce. I also want to give the salt baked turnips a try at home they were delicious. My husband had what he has declared as the best steak he has ever had and that is some statement coming from him!

His steak was a grass fed sirloin steak with grilled baby gem lettuce and brown butter breadcrumbs, triple cooked chips and chimichurri dressing. As said his steak was perfectly cooked and loved the chimichurri dressing when I've tried it previously elsewhere sometimes it tastes a bit 'grassy' but this was a beautiful fresh garlicky, herby dressing. We almost switched plates but neither of us wanted to let ours go. Portions are generous too and I was too full for dessert but my husband can never resist.

For dessert my husband had chocolate brownie with salted caramel sauce, macadamia nut praline and vanilla ice cream. I confess I had to try a little of his and it was so good a soft , deeply chocolatey brownie with the salted caramel was divine and again a good sized portion which was just as well after I 'helped' him with his dessert.

The service was excellent the perfect blend of friendly enough so you didn't feel uncomfortable as you can at some fine dining establishments and formal enough that you knew you were enjoying a fine dining experience.

The wine list was very good, Reasonably priced wines and while on the subject the prices are incredible for the level of expertise and quality of the food. We had a really lovely evening, very relaxed and cannot wait to visit again I highly recommend it to anyone and if you aren't local well worth the trip up the A470.

30-31 High Street
Merthyr Tydfil

01685 267878

*All food and wine paid for by myself*

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Tasty easy lasagne (Slimming World friendly)

   I must apologise for neglecting my blog lately I have now got a facebook page so have been adding recipes on there but thought it's definitely time to put some new ones up. This lasange is an easy one as I use my 'best ever slow cooker bolognese' as the sauce so you can make the sauce in the slow cooker all day then in the evening just make a quick white sauce and assemble it all.

Tasty easy lasange

one batch of 'best ever slow cooker bolognese' you can find the recipe by clicking on this link

250ml skimmed milk

1 tbsp cornflour

160g low fat cheddar (grated)

9 dry lasange sheets

salt and pepper

First make the white sauce by placing the milk and cornflour in a saucepan and bring to the boil whisking all the time, Cook for a few minutes until it's thickened and then add salt and pepper to taste .
Find an ovenproof dish that you can lay three lasange sheets in side by side. I sometimes use a a medium size roasting tin rather than a ceramic dish but it's a personal choice.

Place a few spoonfuls of the white sauce in the bottom of the dish and spread it out then lay three sheets of lasange on top. Add  spoonfuls of the bolognese sauce and then add another three lasange sheets and top with more sauce then finally the last three sheets and the rest of the bolognese sauce then top the rest of the white sauce and sprinkle with all the grated cheese.

Place in the oven  on Gas 5 / 375/ 190 for 30-45 minutes until the top is browned and bubbling.

Serves 4 generously at just 1 1/2 syns each if you use the cheese as your healthy extra

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Tasty smoky sausage pasta (Slimming World friendly)

I have used sausages to make a pasta sauce for many years but that was with full fat Italian style sausages which aren't Slimming World friendly but now I discovered HECK chicken smoky paprika sausages and they are so tasty you can make a pasta sauce and you don't need to use any other herbs or spices at all as they contain garlic, paprika and seasonings already. The sausages are 1/2 syn for 2 and there are 10 in a pack so as it serves four works out as about 1/2 syn per portion.

This recipe serves four generously and was a big hit with my family and was pretty quick to make too so would make a great easy after work dinner.

Tasty smoky paprika sausage pasta

1 pack HECK smoky paprika sausages (skins removed)
1 large onion (chopped)
1 red pepper (diced)
1/2 pint chicken stock
1 carton passata
1 bag washed baby spinach
3 mugs dried penne pasta
low calorie spray oil

Spray a large pan or wok with some spray oil and add the sausages and cook over a medium heat you will need to keep stirring to break up the sausages till they resemble lumpy minced beef it does take a couple of minutes but keep going! Add the onion and red pepper and keep cooking until the onion is soft then add the passata and stock then bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until the sauce has reduced and is thicker.

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until done then drain and add to the sauce then put in the entire bag of spinach. It will look like a LOT of spinach but keep stirring the pasta and spinach together and after a few minutes the spinach will wilt into the pasta.

Serves 4 generously at 1/2 syn per portion

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Broccoli and cheese bites (Slimming World friendly)

I have seen this recipe all over facebook and social media and so thought would give it a try. I did my best to make it as low syn as possible but they still come out at 1/2 syn per bite which is ok but it would be tempting to eat more than a few as they are really tasty.

They aren't hard to make but take a bit of time so I saved making them till a Saturday morning when I didn't have to rush for anything. The recipes I have seen call them 'tots' based on the American food product 'tater tots' which you buy frozen over there but as they aren't readily available here I thought I'd call them bites.

Broccoli and cheese bites

300g broccoli florets (raw weight)
25g panko breadcrumbs
50g grated low fat cheddar cheese
2 spring onions (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 beaten egg
low calorie spray oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil and add the broccoli, Bring back to the boil and boil for 2 minutes then drain well and chop very finely.

Place the broccoli in a large bowl and add all the other ingredients apart from the spray oil and mix very well. Cover and place in the fridge for 20 minutes to chill.

Take small spoonful of the mix and shape into small balls, The recipe should make about 26 'bites'.

Place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and spray with the spray oil. Bake at gas 6 200/400 for about 10 minutes then take them out, Turn them over, Spray again and give them another 10 minutes they may need a little longer just take them out when they are browned and crispy.

1/2 syn each on extra easy

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Easy syn free chicken curry (Slimming World friendly)

I almost always make a curry on a Friday night it's sort of a tradition in our house. This recipe is pretty quick and while I use spices I already have in my cupboard to make my own curry powder it's so easy use a bought curry powder they are easily available and by using them you can make your curry syn free as those jars of sauces are REALLY high in syns.

I think the secret to a really good curry is starting with garlic and ginger they are both easy to use just peel and grate but that can be time consuming. I often buy garlic and ginger paste frozen in cubes they are for sale in some big supermarkets. You can also use the garlic and ginger puree you buy in tubes but they are synned as they contain oil but they aren't very high especially when divided between four people in a recipe.

You can use mild, medium or hot curry powder whichever you like but a good tip is that if after making it your curry is too spicy just remove from the heat and stir in some fat free natural yogurt, You can do this to the whole amount or just the portion you want milder. This is always a good thing if one member of your family prefers a milder curry.

Easy chicken curry

8 skinless boneless chicken thighs cut into chunks (or use 4 chicken breasts if you prefer)
2 large onions (thickly sliced)
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 tbsp fresh ginger (grated - see notes above)
2 tbsp curry powder (mild, medium or hot as you prefer)
3/4 pint chicken stock (stockpot or cube is fine)
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
low calorie spray oil

Spray a large pan or wok with the oil and add the onions and cook for a few minutes until softened. Add the chicken and cook for about 5-10 minutes until the chicken is no longer pink but slightly browned.

Add the ginger, garlic and curry powder and cook for another two minutes stirring well. Add the tomatoes, stock and tomato puree and mix together very well then bring to a boil and immediately reduce the heat so it's just simmering.

Simmer until the sauce has reduced and is thickened takes about 20-30 minutes. Taste in case it needs a little salt, Season to taste then serve.

Serves 4 and is syn free on extra easy

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Hangfire Smokehouse ... A review...

I confess I have a deep love for Hangfire and was beyond excited when I heard they were opening a bricks and mortar location in Barry (best known as the home of 'Gavin and Stacey'). It's a beautiful building it used to be a pumphouse but it has be repurposed as Hangfire restaurant. The girls behind Hangfire are Shauna and Sam who took a roadtrip across America in 2012 and brought their knowledge back with them to Wales and I have followed them since I first found them doing a 'pop up' at The Landsdowne in Cardiff and have been lucky enough to sample their amazing BBQ at places such as Abergavenny and Cowbridge food festivals, Street food circus in Cardiff and witnessed the girls judging at Grillstock in Bristol. They also won the very prestigious BBC Food and farming award last year which really put them into the spotlight.

Sam and Shauna are both so friendly and generous always happy to share their knowledge and they have inspired me to buy my own smoker and start smoking my own foods so they have really made an impact on my culinary life. So what about the food? .....OMG....

I was lucky to be able to get in their second night after they opened and went with my husband and two sons , My daughter was away in Manchester (sorry Gina) . 

This was the starter sharing plate consisting of chicken wings, pork rinds and frickles (fried pickles) . The pork rinds were super crunchy and the wings tasty and really meaty you could tell they had really been prepared properly and the frickles were a revelation fried pickles sound so weird but they were delicious, crunchy batter with a tangy pickle slice inside very moreish.

This was my main course my son Bill had the same the Pit Boss plate I just had to have this to try a bit of everything. It consisted of ribs , brisket (served on Texas toast) burnt ends, sausage , coleslaw , pit beans and fries. It was divine! I'm sorry to sound so fangirl but it was so good. The ribs fell off the bone, the brisket was soft and juicy ,The burnt ends were like butter, The coleslaw and pit beans had the homemade touch you could tell everything was made with love and care. They have their own sauces on the table too and I'm looking forward to their recipe book in May to copy the recipes. 

My husband had the chicken and waffles with white peppery sauce with a side of Welsh mac and cheese which had the tasty addition of leeks in it. He said it was fantastic I confess we shared as I had to try the chicken it was so crispy and the chicken was so tender. The waffles which I didn't think I would be keen on were lovely really light and crispy with the sauce peppery and tasty. 

Pictures of the lovely downstairs bar and the little touches such as GWR ironmongery as loo roll holders are so fab.

I confess we could not even contemplate dessert we were all so stuffed but maybe next time . The wine list and the huge range of beers meant we were spoilt for choice,  The service was perfect so friendly not intrusive but you never had to wait to get anyone's attention for extra napkins or more drinks.

I was so happy that Hangfire restaurant was everything I hoped it would be and cannot wait to go back. They are booked up till June but they save half their tables every day for walk ins so if you are able to please visit I'm sure you won't regret it.