Heartwarming & Comforting Irish Beef Stew

  
The nights are getting darker earlier, the trees are putting on a spectacular autumnal display of fabulous golden and rusett colours and there is a definitely a cooler nip in the air. What is better to come home to than a beautiful, flavoursome, warm bowl of stew, it’s practically a hug in a bowl! If you’re Irish like me this might transport you back to memories of your school days when you would come home to the smell of gorgeous stew wafting through the house bubbling away ready to warm the cockles of your heart. This comes in at 9 propoints and serves 6 (it’s free on filling and healthy). Here’s the skinny:  
800g lean steak pieces

1kg bag baby potatoes halved

2 onions finely diced

4 carrots peeled and chopped

2 stalks of celery peeled and chopped

2 parsnips peeled and chopped

1 pint of beef stock

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon tomato purée 

2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce

Chopped fresh rosemary

Chopped fresh thyme 

Chopped fresh parsley 

Salt and black pepper

2 bay leaves

1 tin plum tomatoes

30g cornflour  

Pre-heat the oven to 160 Celsius. Heat a large pot and spray with spray oil. Gently fry the onions, carrots, celery and parsnips for approximately five minutes until they are softening, add in the crushed garlic for the last 30 seconds. Tip the meat halved baby potatoes and softened veg into a large Pyrex dish or casserole dish. Add the tin of chopped tomatoes (just slice through them whilst still in the tin with a sharp knife if they are whole plum tomatoes). Add all the herbs and season with salt and pepper add the tomato purée and pour over the beef stock. Fold everything gently together with a wooden spoon. Gently fold the bay leaves in half and tuck them into the top where they can be easily removed but are touching the stock to infuse their flavour. Cover with a lid. Some people cook stew for just an hour and a half but I find this needs nearer 2 hours. Check it regularly you will know when the potatoes and veg are cooked & soft it is done. To thicken the stew mix 30g cornflour with a tiny amount of water to make a smooth paste in a mug pour into the stew and gently stir it through return to the oven for the last 15 to 20 minutes and this should thicken your stew nicely, you might find leaving the lid off will help this process, keep a close eye so it doesn’t dry out. You can remove the bay leaves at that stage. If you find that the stew doesn’t need thickening reduce the points to 8 propoints per serving. I recommend you use this fresh over a few days as cooked potatoes do not freeze well. This will last 3 to 4 days covered in a refrigerator. I hope you enjoy!  

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It’s a Spice Bag Hun!

  
It’s a Spice Bag Hun! Lush! This was just voted Ireland’s favourite takeout dish and it’s easy to see why with spicy crispy fried chicken, golden chips and colourful veggies, my kitchen smells divine! yummy. The real version comes in at a whopping 1,200+ calories. But with this healthy version you don’t have to worry about it damaging your waistline. This rolls in at an amazing 9 Smartpoints or 2 Smartpoints on No Count (9 proproints or 2pp on filling and healthy) and serves 4 hungry people. The perfect weekend comfort dinner. It really is a delicious replica takeaway recipe that is well worth making. I know some people refer to them as a ‘fake away’ but I just can’t do it! the word alone makes my skin crawl! – that and the word ‘scrumptious’ or ‘zero heroes’ when referring to fruit & veg *shudder* Anyway, I digress call it what you will, I thoroughly enjoyed it and my kitchen smells gorgeous whilst cooking it and I hope you enjoy it too. Here’s the skinny:  
500g chicken fillet

800g peeled potatoes

1 red, yellow and green pepper finely sliced

1 red onion finely sliced

60g dried semolina

15g cornflour

1 egg

2 tsp chilli flakes

1 tsp garlic salt

1 tsp chinese five spice

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Black pepper  

Pre-heat the oven to 200c. Dice the chicken into nugget sized pieces. Cut the peeled potatoes into chip shapes. Place the chips on a plate and microwave for three minutes. Spray the chips well with spray oil and place in the oven on a mesh chip tray or on a baking sheet sprayed with oil and bake for 30 minutes. Place a baking tin in the oven for the last five minutes of the chip cooking time to heat through. Meanwhile mix all the spices together in a small bowl. Mix the semolina and corn flour together in a separate bowl. Whisk the egg in another bowl. Place three quarters of the spices into the semolina mix and mix well. Pre-heat a large nonstick frying pan sprayed with oil. Dip the chicken pieces into the egg and lightly coat in the semolina mixture. Place in the frying pan and cook for 5 to 6 minutes each side until golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. Re-spray the pan with sprayoil and fry the peppers and onions until soft approximately 5 minutes. Remove the preheated baking tin from the oven and combine the chips breaded chicken and vegetables and sprinkle over the reserved remaining spices mix gently and well. Return to the oven for an extra five minutes of cooking time. If you like it hotter feel free to add extra chilli flakes, cayenne or slice a fresh red chilli & fry with the veggies. Serve immediately whilst hot and enjoy!  

Exquisite Bacon, Garden Pea & Baby Asparagus Risotto with Manchego Cheese

  

Me & Risotto have a love affair situation going on. It’s creamy & flavoursome, warm and comforting, it’s like a hug in a bowl really. It has long held a bad reputation for being difficult to master but that is far from the truth. It takes a little loving with the time to stir & tend to it, but difficult?… No. This version has beautiful vibrant green asparagus & peas & a note of sweet & nutty manchego cheese. You can have a nice comfy portion for 9 propoints (7 on F&H). Serves 4. Here’s the skinny:  
240g Arborio Risotto Rice

8 Lean Bacon Medallions Diced

2 Large Shallots Diced

80g Frozen Garden Peas

A Bunch of Baby Asparagus 

1 Clove Garlic

45g Manchego Cheese Grated

1 & 1/2 Litres Chicken Stock made with 1 Stock Cube

A Handful of Fresh Thyme Leaves

Salt & Black Pepper 

  
Place your stock into a saucepan over a low heat for the duration of cooking so it stays nice and hot. Heat a large based saucepan over a medium heat & spray it with oil. Cook the Bacon & Shallots for about 5 minutes until the bacon is cooked and the shallots are soft. Trim the ends off the asparagus & add it & the frozen peas to the pot cook for another 3 to 4 minutes stir it gently so you don’t break up the asparagus. Add the crushed garlic & stir for a further 30 seconds. Add the rice to the pot & cook for 2 minutes stirring regularly until the rice goes a bit translucent around the edge with a white centre. Start adding the stock 1 ladel at a time and gently stir the risotto regularly. Wait until the ladel of stock is absorbed before adding the next one. You probably won’t use all the stock just use as much as the risotto absorbs within the cooking time. It will take 20 minutes to fully cook the rice. 

 

About 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time season with salt & pepper and the fresh thyme. When it’s cooked take the pot off the heat & stir in the grated manchego cheese. Put a lid on the pot and allow the risotto to rest for 3 to 5 minutes prior to serving. Serve & enjoy!  

Delicious Creole Jambalaya with Chicken & Sausage

  

Jambalaya the very word makes me want to just dance for some reason it’s one of those rhythmic words that rolls off the tongue happily & easily. Jambalaya originates in Louisiana home of cajun & creole food & apparently the main difference between a cajun & creole jambalaya is that a creole version uses tomatoes where a cajun one does not. It’s very similar to a Spanish Paella (I have a lovely Chicken & Chorizo Paella recipe already on the blog) and I always find these kind of rice dishes very comforting, filling & packed with flavour! I’ve made this using my very own easy homemade creole spice blend too. This serves 4 at a fabulous 9 propoints per person. You can use Wholegrain rice to make this 1 propoint on the filling & healthy plan, the main consideration regarding the rice is that it should long grain so Wholegrain basmati would work very well. Here’s the skinny:
  
240g Long Grain Rice

2 Chicken Fillets Diced 

5 Reduced Fat Sausages (1pp each)

1 Onion Finely Diced

2 Stalks of Celery Peeled & Chopped 

1 Red Bell Pepper Finely Sliced

1 Yellow Bell Pepper Finely Sliced

1 Clove Garlic

1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

1 Tbsp Creole Seasoning (Recipe below)

1 400g Tin Plum Tomatoes 

350ml Hot Chicken Stock

A Handful Fresh Parsley

Salt & Black Pepper 

For the Creole Seasoning:

(It’s very little work and hardly any effort to make your own creole seasoning & trust me it’s going to taste much better than any premade one. This yields a good supply considering you only need a Tablespoon for this recipe & will keep in an airtight jar or container for further uses, gorgeous even just sprinkled over a chicken fillet before baking in the oven.)

3Tbsp Paprika 

1 Tbsp Salt

1 Tbsp Garlic Granules

1/2 Tbsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper 

1/2 Tbsp Onion Powder

1/2 Tbsp Cayenne Pepper 

1/2 Tbsp Dried Oregano 

1/2 Tbsp Dried Thyme

1/2 Tbsp Dried Basil 

Mix well in a bowl – that’s it! You’ll need 1 Tablespoon for the recipe. 

 Heat a large lidded pan over a medium heat & spray it with oil. Dice the chicken into 1 inch bite sized pieces. Chop the sausages into 3 pieces each. Fry the chicken for about 5 minutes & add the sausage pieces & fry for a further 10 minutes or so until everything is cooked through & browning. Add 1 Tbsp of the creole seasoning & mix well. Add the onion, celery & bell peppers to the pan & continue to fry everything until the onion & pepper softens approximately 8 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic & fry for 30 seconds. Add the worcestershire sauce & stir through. Add the rice & stir through for a few seconds to start the rice cooking. Pour in the tomatoes breaking them up with your wooden spoon. Pour in the stock & season with salt & pepper if required. Put the lid on & simmer over a medium heat for about 20 to 25 minutes until the rice is cooked only lifting the lid about twice during cooking time to stir it well. If it starts to slightly stick to the pan scrape it all up with your wooden spoon & continue to cook this will just add extra flavour so don’t worry. Reduce the heat slightly for the last 10 minutes. Just before serving add a handful of chopped fresh parsley. Dish up & enjoy!