Home Alone Cooking: Pad Thai

img_0544Ella’s recipes are pretty versatile, and it’s easy to swap in ingredients that you have to hand.  In my case, a leek, some button mushrooms, and a few radishes.img_0545

I sliced these finely, and sauteed them with some bell pepper in a little coconut oil.  Look at those vivid colours!


I soaked some fine rice noodles in boiling water, and then stirred them into the veg.


The sauce was delicious, and I’ll be making it again:


For 2 portions

  • 8 tablespoons olive oil
  • 15g fresh coriander
  • 3 tablespoons almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Blend everything together in a food processor.

Stir the sauce through the noodles and veg.


Not for a low-calorie day, but a very quick and easy satisfying dinner.

Home Alone Cooking: The Shappin!

Well, I have another week ahead of me catering for myself, so as usual I will be experimenting with some veggie/ vegan/ healthy/ low cal recipes.

To clarify, I’m not exclusively veggie or vegan, but I do like to experiment with dishes that are.  Lots of my friends and relatives follow this way of eating, and I like to have a range of dishes in my repertoire.

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Low cal wise, I  try to follow a 5:2 approach, though admittedly I’m not the best adherent.  But a tasty low-cal recipe is another handy addition to the recipe bank.

I’ve found that wheat and/or gluten does mess a bit with my digestion.  I’m not celiac, but I find my body does better when I limit wheat and carbohydrates.  As a runner and dancer, that’s quite important, as fuelling for intensive exercise sessions is crucial!

So my first step was to stock up with suitable ingredients.  Working full-time, I find that the click-and-collect option provided by supermarkets is a godsend, and Tesco do a collection spot right across the road from my house.  I was able to place my order while having my morning cuppa on Wednesday, and pick it up on the way home form work on Thursday.  No waiting, no hours and petrol spent going to the supermarket, and a very friendly bit of chit-chat with the delivery guy. Marvellous!

Now, Tesco didn’t have all the fancy ingredients I wanted, so I supplemented that with a call into Holland and Barratt, and the Aladdin’s cave that is Sawyers, Belfast, about 50m from my office.


So here’s the whole haul of ingredients.

Leafy green veg – kale, spinach, broccoli and asparagus.


Other veg – squash, peppers, mushrooms, avocado, sweet potato


Fruit – pink grapefruit, figs, pomegranate, lemons and limes


Store cupboard – lentils, cacao nibs, cacao powder, and baobab powder


Tins – black beans, coconut oil, coconut milk, ginger curd, almond butter


Dairy and dairy-like – almond milk, oat cream, cottage cheese


So, with all these jewels, plus a few things I already have….what shall I make first?


5:2 recipes: Cactus Salad

I’ve a terrible habit of picking up bargains when I see them, especially more unusual items.  I came across this jar of cactus tips in Dobbies sale, and couldn’t resist.


It had a salad recipe on the side, which I decided to try out.


The other ingredients were a spoonful of salsa, and a chopped tomato and onion.

I’m not a big onion fan, but as long as it’s finely chopped and has had time to marinate a bit, it’s OK.


I nearly came unstuck (if you see what I mean….) by my failure to be able to twist off the lid.  But I discovered that this pokey device at the end of a tin opener


is not just for taking stones out of horses hooves, it can be used to prise under a lid and break the seal.  Voila!


The cactus tips were rather good, a nice crunch, not an overpowering flavour.


Calorie wise this was a total winner.  I omitted the oil from the recipe, and honestly it didn’t need it. The whole jar of drained cactus was about 10 calories. The tomato and onion added 30, and the most calorific element was the spoonful of salsa, at 40.  But the whole big satisfying bowlful was under 100.  It would make a great accompaniment for a slice of ham or chicken, for non-vegetarians.



I’ll definitely be looking out for bargain cactus in the future!


Home Alone Cooking: store cupboard salmon


I’m heading off in a few days so I didn’t want to go shopping, instead I wanted to use the foods I had in my store cupboard.


I love frozen salmon fillets – these can be cooked from frozen either in the oven or the microwave.  I flavoured mine with lime, honey ginger and tamari.


I served it on a bed of rice noodles, which I pepped up with spring onion, bean sprouts and mushrooms from a jar.

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To add a bit of crunch, a toasted some pumpkin seeds and sprinkled these on top.

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Home Alone Cooking Day 8: Roasted Aubergine

This was a way of using up the aubergine and remainder of the can of black beans from earlier in the week.

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There was nothing complicated in the prep, but it did take a bit of time.

First stage was to oven bake some thin aubergine slices.  Recipe says “thin slices, a couple of millimeters” and the picture seems to suggest lengthwise cuts. And I could have used a mandolin. But I quite enjoyed the meditation like state produced by slicing my rounds by hand, taking my time.

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These (there were a lot of them) were put on an olive oil slicked tray, with more oil drizzled on top (how to do this? I don’t know! Should I have spritzed?  I felt some slices got lots more oil than others)

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The recipe called for sauteed spinach with garlic.  I had no spinach, but I did have pak choi.

The recipe also called for brown rice cooked from scratch for 40 mins.  I had none of that either, but I did have a ready cook rice sachet or brown basmati and quinoa.

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In the recipe, the final stage was to dry roast off “a good handful” of pumpkin and sunflower seeds.  I did this stage first, before adding any of the softer ingredients, and also to stop the rest getting cold while i did my dry roasting.

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So, to assembly – rice stuff stirred with tahini and tamari.  Pak choi and bean garlic stir fry. Sort of roasted aubergine slices. And a sprinkle of roasted seeds.

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Honestly? It felt a bit knit-your-own-lentil worthy and heavy. I love aubergine, but I’m not sure this used them to their best advantage.

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Home Alone Cooking 7: 5:2 noodles

I used to be very good at following the 5:2 way of eating, but have got out of the habit lately. However, the mental attitude of KNOWING that I can get through a day on less than 500 calories makes it pretty easy.  I tend to base low-cal meals around fish and veg, and whilst they are not to everyone’s taste, I don’t mind these konjac slim noodles, which are around 10 cals for a whole packet.

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I had the rest of my smoked salmon to finish, and there was still plenty of veg in the drawer, include these cute mini-peppers.

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I rinsed and dry fried the noodles, and set them to one side,

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while I sauteed the veggies in lemon juice and tamari, with a splash of water.  To be honest, I didn’t cook them for long enough, as they were still very crunchy in the finished dish.

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I stirred the noodles back in, and added the smoked salmon in shreds, as well as more lemon juice. I get through a lot of lemons!

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Result – a big satisfying bowl for around 150 calories.

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Home Alone Cooking 6: Black Beans

Sunday.  I decided to take Max for a good long run before it got too hot.  As it turned out, we were 1km into our run when the heavens opened and it poured.  So I was in need of something tasty on my return.

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The TV had been showing footage of the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations and patron’s lunch, part of which was a picnic hamper packed with foodie goodies sourced from all over the UK.

I was inspired by their smoked salmon starter, and decided to make my own version, using the half price organic cold smoked stuff I’d bought in Dobbies yesterday.

2 small slices, chopped finely with a knife and fork (use the back of the fork to mush it a bit more)

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Add a good heaped teaspoon of Skyr, or other thick natural yoghurt.

Squeeze in half a lemon, and add some fresh black pepper.

Arrange attractively, using red peppers out of a jar, capers, and tortilla chips.

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For dinner, it was back to Ella, and what she claimed was the Best Sweet Potato.

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One of the issues I’d had with Click-and-collect-ing is that you can’t choose the size of your veg.  I’d been hoping for some chunky sweet potatoes suitable for baking, but instead my bag contained long thin ones, more suited to making wedges.  So that’s what I did.

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The filling was half a can of black beans, sauteed with mushrooms.  The recipe said 7 mushrooms, or 150 g.  I’m glad it added the grams, as my mushrooms, having been unable to select myself (see above) were on the large side, and in fact 3 of them took me to 150g.

To the pan, I added a teaspoon of jarred chillies. and 3 chopped cloves of garlic.  The recipe said to saute these in “lots of olive oil”. Lots?  How much is lots?  Is that 3 tablespoons or half a bottle?  Actually, I find you don’t need much oil when cooking mushrooms, as they release their own liquid.

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A dressing was also required – 2 teaspoons tahini, the juice of a lime (size unspecified), a teaspoon of honey, and pepper and salt.

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I missed when reading the ingredients that there was an avocado as well, so my version omitted it.

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It was a very edible meal.  But just too….earthy.  There was no contrast or light and shade in the flavours.  The sweet potato is earthy, the beans are earthy, mushrooms are earthy, the tahini dressing is…yes you’ve guessed it, earthy.  Even the lime juice wasn’t enough to lift it. And a cookery book that claims to be “no sugar” but merrily adds honey to recipes is failing my nutritional awareness hurdles.