Moroccan meatballs with egg

I was on a roll with making food from my 400 and Under collection of recipes. I always look out for recipes that provide less than 400 calories per serving because that means we have some leeway with having a glass of wine, say, while still keeping our calories down and, therefore, still (theoretically at least) sticking to a diet. The thought of Moroccan spiced meatballs with egg in a delicious tomatoey sauce seemed too good to be true – a rich and delicious supper that would only add up to (according to Good Food Magazine, where I found the recipe) a mere 377 calories per serving.

It’s diet food! And it would be delicious. Who wants to live on cottage cheese and celery when you can have a gorgeous steaming bowl of meatballs? Meatballs in a tomato and chickpea spiced sauce with a lovely egg cooked in there…….I had everything I needed so I started by chopping a small sweet white onion and a small red onion. That’s because the recipe said one onion… and these were more midget sized onions.

They went into the frying pan to soften while I started on the meatballs themselves. I did have one problem – I had no ground cinnamon and I needed that for a real Moroccan hit. I love the smell of cinnamon (and having made this recipe once, the next time I will add more cinnamon) I did have, however, cinnamon sticks and a large pestle and mortar…

Quite therapeutic to bash and grind the cinnamon into a soft and fragrant powder. But possibly easier to buy it ground…..? I did manage to get some ground cinnamon but there were lots of bits of the stick left. Anyway, I did, in the end, after lots of pounding, finish up with half a teaspoon or thereabouts which I added to 250g of lamb mince.

(Having made the dish I have to say that I would, when I do it again, add more than half a teaspoon of cinnamon because I so love that rich and exotic taste and smell. If you aren’t as keen on Middle eastern flavours then just stick to the recipe)

I added 50g of fresh breadcrumbs (I made them by whizzing up a breadbun I had)

and added an egg, salt and pepper.

By now the onions were beautifully soft and once they cooled slightly, I stirred them in, mixed them round and started to make meatballs. The Bear was called into action… my poor Canon camera gets so much abuse with my sticky fingers but I really couldn’t subject it to meatball mix.

They had to be cooked in the fat left in the frying pan, turning them gently until they were browned

That only takes about 8 minutes – don’t worry, remember they do go back into the pan when you have made the tomato sauce. Take them out and put them to one side.

The recipe said use a courgette, thickly sliced but I only had baby courgettes, so I reckoned three of them would be the equivalent of a normal courgette… so they got sliced and gently fried for a minute or so

Before adding in a couple of cans of chopped plum tomatoes

… a teaspoon of Ras-el Hanout – a Moroccan spice blend that you can buy in most large supermarkets nowadays. You can make it yourself if you can’t find it – click on that link and it takes to a description and a recipe.

… and two teaspoons of honey

Once the tomatoey mix was soft, a tin of chickpeas was added and the stirred round

and then the meatballs put in

After that, the recipe said to make four hollows in the suace and crack eggs into them… I couldn’t really manage – maybe my sauce wasn’t thick enough? – anyway, I broke the eggs in and pulled the sauce away from underneath so the raw egg dropped down into the sauce.

The pan was covered for 5 minutes or so and left on a low heat to set the eggs……

And it was delicious! The cinnamony richness of the meatballs was perfect with the spicy tomato, chickpea and Ras-El Hanout spices and the beautiful egg was the perfect addition in terms of difference in texture and taste.

This is definitely something we shall be cooking again… and it was on our diet! Less than 400 calories per serving….if you stick to one serving that is….oh, it is delicious!

As Good Food doesn’t have a link to the recipe – here it is


1 onion finely chopped; 3 tbsp of olive oil; 50g fresh breadcrumbs;  250g of lean lamb mince;  1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon; 5 eggs; 2 garlic cloves, sliced; 1 courgette thickli sliced; 2x400g chopped plum tomatoes; 2 tsp. of honey; 1 tsp ras-El Hanout spice blend; 400g chickpeas, rinsed and drained.

Fry the onion in 1 tbsp oil until soft, leave to cool. Mix with the breadcrumbs, mince, cinnamon, 1 egg, 1/2 tsp salt and lots of pepper then shape into about 24 meatballs. Fry in the remaining oil in the pan for about 8 minutes until bgrowned. Lift out and set aside.

Add garlic to the oil in the pan and fry till softened. Add courgettes, fry gently for about a minutes then add tomatoes, honey, Ras-El Hanout, seasoning and a couple of tbsp of water. Stir and cook until pulpy

Stir in the chickpeas and the meatballs. Make 4 hollows in the sauce and break in the remaining eggs. Cover and cook for 5 or so minutes over a low heat till the eggs are set.

Serves 4 Preparation 40 minutes, cooking 30 minutes

Per serving – 377 calories, protein 26g, carbs 20g, fat 22g, saturated fat 7g, fibre 3g, sugar 8g, salt 0.94g

New Year’s Eve

Today is the day that I think about what I want to achieve in the new year.

I am going to be more focussed this year – the resolutions I made  last year were “discussed”


…………with the help of numerous glasses of champagne, and our beloved L&L, in a revolving restaurant, high above Hobart, Tasmania.

We were spending days in the brilliant sunshine of an Australian summer 

and eating fresh oysters and fish straight from the boat

and it all seemed so easy.

Of course this would be the year that we did things… we would lose weight, become supremely fit, reverse the ravages of time and become all-round-gorgeous.


Maybe it was the sun that went to our heads?

This year, though, I am going to really make an effort. In all honesty, all I did try to do was to cook delicious things for the Bear and his friends. I just didn’t try to make us thinner. Butter and cream featured strongly……Nothing wrong with butter and cream, though, but perhaps I had been just a tad generous.

I have started to collect recipes that gave us 400 calories and under per serving, so that if we were very sensible with breakfast and lunch, we could have a delicious supper and still keep to just over 1000 calories a day, which should, theoretically, make us whippet-thin within weeks. It would also allow us room for manoeuvre if we had people round.

The problem with diets is that it is so easy to lose interest when faced with a crispbread and some cottage cheese. If I could produce meals with a sense of luxury about them but still keep the calories low then surely we would be on to a winner?

Of course, last year I wasn’t writing this. Any bold promises I made were only heard by a select few and they are unlikely to point and laugh and tell me I am a failure.

This year I am writing it down so whoever reads this will see what I have said. I can’t threaten you with violence if you point out that I have failed, as I do to my nearest and dearest.

So… in 2010 I will make it my aim to seach out delicious recipes that are low calorie… BUT would make you think you are not on a diet.

I will make sure that  we eat healthily and happily.

I will make sure that this time next year there will be a distinct difference in our shape and size and general state of health.

I will still cook the occasional greedy and gluttonous treat but that will be balanced by our other efforts.

Instead of saying “I really should” or “I’d like to” or “Let’s think about”, I will say that we ARE doing something. That mushroom foraging course I always say we must book – well, we will do it.

Those walks I say we will go on – well, we shall do them.

I shall read my favourite cookery books again and work through them… I have picked out the first few…. Elisabeth Luard, for example. There is so much to explore in this book – European Peasant Food reflects recipes that make the most of the ingredients to hand. Recipes that have been forgotten, in the main, and really need to be revived

Also, we are very lucky in that we have some marvellous friends from Turkey who KNOW how to cook – nights spent with F & E have inspired me to look through my collection and I shall make more Middle Eastern/Turkish/Moroccan food…

And I shall also read through some of the books that  first inspired me to cook

And once I have done all that….. well there are still many more packed bookcases to work through

So, this time next year, the last day of 2010, how much will I have achieved? Will I be thin, fit, well fed and well read? Or will I have fallen by the wayside and just managed the reading and feeding?

Here’s to 2010!

Happy New Year to everyone and may all your wishes and resolutions come true!

Pork and Pepper Goulash

The Bear has returned from a trip to Australia and I have returned from work. We meet upstairs in the kitchen.

I need to cook something and I need to make sure it is not only quick to cook and serve   (before he falls asleep from jet lag) but also to get us back on our diet. It will have to be something from the 400 and Under section of my recipe files.

On my way back through town, in the rush hour traffic, I pulled in to the supermarket to see what there was and saw some pork.

I knew there was a recipe that I had cooked before that turned out to be surprisingly  tasty. I say surprisingly, because it wouldn’t have been my choice when I spotted it. I said, didn’t I, that I looked through magazines and cook books for recipes that gave us under 400 calories per serving?  Well, I always index tab them and show them to the Bear to see if there’s anything he fancies. He picked this one  from delicious.magazine (sept 2008). And this one had two things going against it in my eyes… it involved pork (not my favourite meat) and caraway seeds – very definitely not my favourite flavour.

Still, it was his choice and I am, despite appearances to the contrary, quite pleasant at times….

And as it happened, it turned out to be incredibly delicious. And also very quick to cook. Time to do it again, I thought.

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So I got 4 boneless pork steaks – not too much fat on them – and not too expensive. I knew I had all the other ingredients that I would need, which is another good reason to read this recipe and keep it in mind.

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I needed a tin of tomatoes, a red onion, some smoked sweet paprika, some caraway seeds, a jar of roasted red peppers in oil and some yoghurt.

First of all, while waiting for the kettle to boil so I could make the poor, exhausted Bear a cup of tea, I sliced the red onion and put the frying pan on to heat through.

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Not much oil in the pan and get them softening, before adding 1 tablespoon of smoked sweet paprika

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and a teaspoon of caraway seeds

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Stir it all round and while the flavours are blending, cut the pork into bite sized pieces. Take the rind and any excess fat off (we are on a diet, you know!) and add that

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get that meat in and stir it round, letting it brown

I swear, all that took just a few minutes. All I had to do then, once the meat was browned, was to add a tin of chopped plum tomatoes and let it simmer for fifteen minutes.

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Now, as I was in late from work and as the Bear was starving, I didn’t want to delay supper. I had some Anya potatoes (those knobbly ones) and I put them on to steam (yes, it really should have been mash but I knew this would work) All I would have to do with them would be to crush them so the gorgeous juices soaked in….

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… and some of the juices would be coming from the roasted red peppers. Most of the supermarkets have them and they are a great storecupboard standby. They have a real depth of flavour and a long shelf life so they are perfect to get and keep for moments like this.

Cut them into pieces and then add them to the tomatoey pork after it has had fifteen minutes or so, cooking

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… then add a couple of large spoonfuls of yoghurt.

And that’s it. Done and dusted in less than 40 minutes. Squash the potatoes with a fork so they are broken up and then spoon over the delicious (and I say this as a person who doesn’t LIKE caraway) meat and sauce.

The tomato and caraway make a beautiful rich and savoury sauce for the meat, which is still tender…..

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A sprinkling of parsley sets it off… all that for less than 400 calories (396 according the the recipe) … maybe 550 if you add the potatoes?

Well… it WOULD have been 550 calories but it was so utterly delicious I did have an extra spoonful. I do my best, you know. It was quick and easy, low calorie…… but I am greedy.

It is supposed to feed 4 so if you are strict and divide it by 4………. or maybe invite two friends round? That should solve things. What can you do, eh? Totally delicious…….

Tandoori Pheasant

 As you may know (if you read my post about Game) I do tend to get my hands on a variety of game birds. The latest to turn up was pheasant.

One of the luxuries of having a ready supply of game is that you can experiment more readily than you would if you can only get  the occasional bird.

About a year ago, I scrawled some notes about a recipe for Partridge Tandoori. I know it was Valentine Warner but when I searched for it online, I couldn’t find it, so I can’t link to it. You’ll have to take my word on it. He had worked out the calorie count as coming in around 329 calories per serving. Well, pheasant would do instead of partridge and it would still be able to feature in the 400 and Under section.

You don’t need a tandoor oven to cook it on – you could use a barbecue, but I think in this weather, it is appropriate to stay indoors and use a griddle pan.

The trick with any tandoori dish is the marinade. The meat (whatever sort you are using) goes into that and stays overnight to absorb the flavour.  If you want this you need to start a day ahead . The only reason it is red is because of red food dye so we can miss that out, I think. So… start with making the marinade

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You’ll need 2 tsp of ground cumin

2 tsp of turmeric

1 and a half teaspoons of ground coriander

1 tbsp of garam masala

Nutmeg – a good grating

1 tsp salt flakes

6 garlic cloves, peeled

Half a small onion

1 red chilli, de seeded

Half a juiced lemon

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Blitz them all into a fine paste

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Then  add 250 ml yoghurt  – I was using the Total Greek Yoghurt 0%

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and give it a quick blitz but don’t over process it – see it has some texture?

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Put it all into a large bowl. It needs to be large because you are going to put your pheasant in there.

And now for the fun bit. I have some poultry shears, which are big, strong scissors that can snip their way through any bird… if you are going to be doing this sort of thing a lot then it would be a good idea to get some. If not then have at the carcass with a sharp knife – but watch your fingers

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You need to cut the bird, first down the breast bone

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so you have two bits

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and then separate the legs and thighs

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Then, take the skin off… the skin of game birds is not like the sweetly savoury crispy skin you can get on a roasted chicken, so just stick your fingers in there and rip it off. It’s quite easy, really… and besides the skin is already torn from where it was shot.

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Now then.. you have a plate of naked pheasant, cut neatly (or not)  into pieces.

 Because you are going to marinade the pieces overnight, you want that spicy, yoghurty mix to get into the flesh. Score the breasts and thighs with a sharp knife so that the marinade can get into the flesh.

Really give it a good covering, squishing it about….

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and then cover the bowl with cling film and leave overnight.

The next day, wipe your griddle with a piece of kitchen roll and vegetable oil then get it hot. Lift out each piece of pheasant at a time, shaking off the excess marinade and lie it down in the pan.

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Don’t move the pieces around too much because you want them to get a lovely. slightly charred crust…

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It will take maybe 8 or so minutes on each side…..

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Just check that you are happy with the amount of cooking… I quite like it just cooked and tender but you may be different.

All you need to serve it with are some lemon quarters and maybe some naan braed on the side

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That was delicious … and perhaps one of the tastiest ways of eating pheasant.

All that and under 400 calories…. oooh, I feel thinner already!

Planning ahead

After several weeks away from work because I had an operation on my arm, I will be back at work from Tuesday. That’s good because I need to get back to earning money, but bad because I will be leaving at 7.30 am and getting back after 6 pm.

If  we are to be eating at any kind of reasonable time I need to be organised. I need to plan shopping and ingredients…. I need to plan meals that kind be either cooked while I am out or cooked quickly when I get in.

So from now on there are going to be meals featuring slow cookers or ultra fast put-it-all-together meals.

There’s a couple of things I must do  – first, I really have to sort out shopping lists so I can get things in advance or, at least, know what I am going to grab as I race through a supermarket on the way home after a long day so I will be searching through recipe books and magazines…. oh the work I put into this…

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I might as well relax while I read because, after this, I will be at a desk all day

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Oh, and the other thing?

Without putting too fine a point on things, The Bear and I are no longer the sylph like creatures of our youth…. a diet is called for. Well, not so much a diet as a restriction on the amount of calories we have been consuming. I know the government has said I actually need more than the 2,000 calories they said a normal woman needed but  I really don’t think my waistline was paying attention. For some reason I seem to have…. well, expanded!

Over time I have been collecting and developing recipes that are 400 calories and under as a serving – we shall be going through that file as well. 400 calories for a tasty portion? That should help. Of course you would have to add in extra calories for the side dishes but it HAS to make a difference…….. doesn’t it? Well, it has to.