Tag Archives: low-fat

Recipe: Carrot and Lentil Soup


Come the New Year we all want something healthy to eat, right? But it’s cold and wet so something comforting would be in order as well. Well in these times, my thoughts turn to soup. This is my latest contribution to the easy, tasty, lentil soups pile. The comfort comes from the soft lentils, the taste comes from the star anise which adds a background fragrance and the health comes from the carrots, which are absurdly good for you. The chilli oil is optional, but will clear your sinuses if you’re feeling snuffly on top of the other seasonal ills.

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200g split red lentils
1 star anise
1l vegetable stock
2 large carrots, grated
chilli oil, optional

Put the lentils, star anise and vegetable stock in a saucepan. Cover and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the carrots, bring back up to the heat and simmer (covered) for another 10 minutes. Remove the star anise and season with salt and pepper. Serve with a drizzling of chilli oil.

Serves 2

Recipe: Slow Cooker Red Cooked Tofu


There are some recipes you cook that turn out to be a disappointment. The version of this recipe I tried yesterday fits into that category. It was based on the recipe for Red Braised Pork in Fuscia Dunlop’s Every Grain of Rice. I used tofu instead of pork and used 5 Spice Powder instead of the cinnamon and star anise. It simmered in the slow cooker for four hours, filling my flat with the fragrance of Chinatown. I had such hopes for this dish, glistening with the flavourful sauce coating the tofu.

What I got was thin, watery and brown. In retrospect the mushrooms were probably a mistake. They added great texture and a whole lot more brownness than I really wanted. It was impossible to photograph it so it looked appealing. There was no amount of spring onion garnish in the world that was going to stop it looking brown and grim. It tasted great. It looked like nothing on earth.

Anyway, one lives and learns. This version has no mushrooms, but a chopped pepper (yay! colour!) and I’ve added some cornflour to thicken up the sauce.

This is much better – a lovely, warming stew, reminding us that Chinese cooking is not all about fast and frantic stir fries. It is also, accidentally, a fat-free recipe (if you don’t bother with the drizzle of sesame oil at the end).

Red cooked tofu photo DSCN0930_zps52fd2a4e.jpg

250g firm tofu, drained and cubed
1 red or yellow pepper, roughly chopped
10g ginger, peeled and grated
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp 5 Spice Powder
1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp cornflour
250ml vegetable stock
sesame oil for drizzling
1 spring onion, chopped for garnish

Add the tofu, mushrooms, spring onion, ginger, sugar, five spice powder, rice wine and soy sauce to the slow cooker pot.
Mix the cornflour with a little water and then stir in the vegetable stock until it has all dissolved.
Pour the vegetable stock until you have just covered the ingredients. This takes about 250ml in my slow cooker, but yours may vary.
Cover and cook on high for 4 hours.
When cooked, stir, season with salt, drizzle over some sesame oil and garnish with the chopped spring onion.

Serves 2 as a dinner with rice and stir fried greens

You can make this on the stove. In which case simmer it for 90 minutes. You will probably need to add a bit more stock to allow for it drying out.

Recipe: Tofu and Sweetcorn Soup


I’ve already expressed a love for chinese hot and sour soup. In my pre-veggie days, my second favourite chinese soup was chicken and sweetcorn. It’s one of the great comfort soups of the world I think. The problem was, I could never recreate it properly. I tried different combinations of garlic and ginger, different levels of smoothness from blending the sweetcorn – none of it worked. None of it tasted right. Then I stumbled on a magazine recipe that gave away the secret. I’ve lost the magazine cutting now, but I’ve retained the secret ingredient.

Let me whisper it to you.

Tinned, creamed sweetcorn.

That’s it. Forget complicated spicing or other combinations. The flavour and texture is based on creamed sweetcorn. I don’t know how ‘authentic’ take-away sweetcorn soup is, but now you can make the authentic inauthentic version for yourself anytime you please.

Tofu & sweetcorn soup photo DSCN0856_zpsa5df693d.jpg

100g tofu, cut into small cubes
2 tbsp soy sauce

418g tin creamed sweetcorn
425ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp grated ginger
50g frozen sweetcorn

sesame oil

Put the tofu in a bowl and mix with the soy sauce. Leave to marinade for at least half an hour.
Heat the creamed sweetcorn, vegetable stock, ginger and frozen sweetcorn in a pan and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the tofu and its marinade and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with some sesame oil drizzled over.

Serves 2 as a light lunch

Recipe: Cucumber Salad


Cucumber frequently gets paired with mint, which highlights its coolness, but here the sweet fragrance of dill brings out the sweetness of a ripe cucumber. You frequently see this salad with the cucumber peeled. I think that misses the point of the green skin mixed with the pinkness of the red onion.

Cucumber Salad photo DSCN0759_zpseb69b1f8.jpg

1 cucumber portion (about 100-150g)
1/2 red onion, finely sliced
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp vinegar (white wine or cider)
1 tbsp dill, finely chopped

Halve the cucumber lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard them.
Slice the cucumber as finely as you can.
Put the cucumber in a bowl with the other ingredients.
Season with salt & pepper.
Mix thoroughly and set aside for at least half an hour at room temperature before serving.

Serves 2 as a side salad

Recipe: Hot and Sour Soup


I came across chinese hot and sour soup when I first developed my chinese restaurant habit in the late 80’s when I lived in London. I don’t know where I first had it, but the moment that combination of heat and sourness hit my tastebuds I was hooked. It’s a great soup to do at home because you can replicate a restaurant taste without a huge number of specialist ingredients. If you have bamboo shoots and shiitake mushrooms around then by all means use them, but if not it’s a great ‘what have I got in the fridge’ soup. I vary the ingredients practically every time I make it, so please just take this ingredients list as a suggestion not definitive list. There are three things I always include – mushrooms, carrots and peas. It has to have peas. This is in honour of the time I was eating it in Poons off Leicester Square (my favourite restaurant at the time, now sadly gone), thinking that my mouth was on fire and realising that what I had taken for peas in the soup were actually rings of green birdseye chilli.

It’s low fat (or no fat if you leave the sesame oil off), packed with veggies, quick to make and the taste will knock your socks off. What’s not to like?

Hot & sour soup

750ml vegetable stock
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1/2 medium carrot, cut into fine matchsticks (or grated)
75g mushrooms, sliced
25g frozen peas
25g frozen sweetcorn
1/2 gem lettuce, finely shredded
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 tsp cornflour mixed with a little water
1 handful beansprouts
sesame oil

Add the stock, garlic, ginger, chilli, soy sauce and vinegar to a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.
Add the carrot, mushrooms, peas, sweetcorn and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the vegetables are cooked.
Keeping the soup at a simmer, add the lettuce and spring onion.
Add the cornflour and stir until the soup thickens a little.
Turn off the heat and mix in the beansprouts.
Serve, drizzled with a little sesame oil.

Serves 2

Recipe: Veggie Sausages


Now it might appear that this blog (or this blogger) is obsessed with sausages. It’s not completely true, but my experience in going vegetarian is that is has taught me the importance of mouthfeel when you’re eating. One of the pleasures of eating meat is not just the flavour but the dense chewiness it brings. That sensation in the mouth is difficult to replicate in vegetarian cooking and that’s one of the reasons for the proliferation of meat substitutes in the veggie world. Sausages are one of the most varied types of this mock meat and you can see from this I have enjoyed trying out different ones. However a quick look at the ingredients list of these sausages often leaves you wondering if you’re cooking or taking part in a chemistry experiment. (Actually, I used to know a biochemist who called cooking ‘bucket chemistry’.) Wouldn’t it be nice to make your own vegetarian sausage where you know exactly what is in it?

I found this recipe for seitan sausages. Now, I’ve tried making seitan before – a process that involves a lot of kneading and rinsing – and I couldn’t see how you could put any flavouring in the dough that wouldn’t get washed away in the making of it. However, this recipe uses Vital Wheat Gluten, which means all the kneading and rinsing work has already been done. I looked for it in various health food shops, but couldn’t find any until I finally tracked down a source on Amazon.

Having made the sausages, I like them. They have a chewy texture and a great savoury flavour. They get a nice crisp outer edge when fried and they hold their shape when sliced. I haven’t tried cooking them for longer than it takes to heat them up in a pan with baked beans, but I suspect they’d hold up reasonably well to a longer simmer. Best of all, I know what’s in them and I control their flavour (I’m already looking at the smoked paprika and chilli powder and considering a chorizo version).

I know this is a recipe for the dedicated vegetarian/vegan, but once you have the vital wheat gluten flour the recipe is really just a question of mixing and shaping. And if you have child labour to hand, I’m sure they’ll love rolling the sausages.


400g tin butter beans, drained
150g wheat gluten
1 tbsp garlic granules/powder
1 tsp veg stock powder
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1 tbsp vegetarian worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Marmite
150ml cold water

Mash the butter beans (or whizz in a food processor) until you have a smooth paste.
Put the beans in a bowl and add the dry ingredients.
Mix the wet ingredients in the water. If you need to use warm water to get them to dissolve fully, leave it to cool before adding it to the rest of the mix.
Add the wet ingredients to the mix and stir until you have a pliable dough.
Divide the dough into 8 parts.
Roll the each part into sausages about 10cm long.
Wrap each sausage in kitchen foil and twist at the ends.
Put in a steamer and steam for 30 minutes.
Take out of the steamer and leave to cool in their foil wrapping.

The sausages are fine to eat immediately, or they can be fried, mixed in with baked beans or pasta sauces etc.

Recipe: Low Fat Oven-Baked Chips


This is a quick one – two ingredients and a simple method. These are the famous ‘Slimming World Chips’. If you haven’t been told how to make them in your first week at a club, you will be on your second. It’s the FryLite spray that makes these low-fat. And they are pretty tasty. Essentially it’s the same method for making roast potatoes.

Slimming World Chips

2 medium floury potatoes, cut into chips
Frylite spray

Parboil the chips for 5-10 minutes depending on how thick you’ve cut them.
Drain them and then shake them around in the saucepan to break up the edges a little. This is what will give them their crispy finish.
Spread them out on a baking sheet and spray with Frylite, tossing them so that every side gets some oil.
Put into a preheated oven at 220C for about 20 minutes.
I normally check on that after 15 minutes and toss them on the baking sheet so that they brown more evenly.

Serves 2
In the magical incantation of Slimming World: they’re free on Green!