Category Archives: Recipes

Easy FAT FREE dumplings

Most recipes for English dumplings have quite a high amount of fat in them. There are lots of different recipes available on line with the more traditional ones using suet or butter but I have found a way of making some tasty dumplings to top a casserole without the fat.

The very basic recipe is simply;

(For 2 people)

  • 100g self raising flour,
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • Milk to bind together(substitute coconut milk or soya for vegan or lactose intolerance)
  • Seasoning

Mix together the flour and baking powder and then add a little milk to bind together. Keep adding small amounts of milk until all the flour is mixed in but taking care to keep the mixture fairly firm so that you can spoon or shape dumplings onto the top of your casserole. It needs to be soft enough to spoon on top but not too wet that it spreads out too much.

Now depending on what your preference is and the casserole you are making, you can then vary the dumplings accordingly.

If you want a cheesy flavour then of course you can add cheese (which will not be FAT FREE so use a very strong low fat cheese if this is what you want) Alternatively add a teaspoon of English Mustard (more if liked) which gives a cheesy like flavour without the cheese.

I like to add more flavour to mine by adding herbs. I usually just use some ready mixed herb (a good heaped teaspoon). Adapt the quantity to your preference and casserole recipe but I find this works well with most meats or even vegetarian and either tomato, white sauce or gravy based dishes. (Tarragon works well with chicken dishes)

You could even try a teaspoon of curry powder instead or chilli powder.

You could use this recipe for a sweet dish instead of a crumble topping by adding some honey or sugar (again probably only a good teaspoon). You could use cinnamon with an apple dish or ginger with rhubarb . (We call this a cobbler in England)

Depending on your casserole you may need to part cook the base first and thicken any gravy or sauce. Once the dumplings have been added they need to be left undisturbed.

Spoon the dumpling mixture on top of the casserole around the dish allowing space between each spoonful for the mixture to expand and rise in cooking. Don’t worry about getting too close to the edge of the dish (those become the crispy “best bits)

I find it works best with a lid on to start with so that the dumplings steam for a while first and don’t dry out too much.

Place the casserole back into the oven at around 180 degrees (with lid on) for about 20 minutes and when they are looking “almost done” remove the lid and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes to allow the tops to brown and crisp up a little. You may want to turn the oven temperature up to about 200 to finish off.

I don’t usually serve any potatoes with this as the dumplings themselves give you enough carbohydrates but remember this only gives a fairly light portion each for two people so add more veg or increase the quantity for more.

I also like to use Wholemeal Self Raising flour to make it a little more healthy.

Have fun experimenting – sorry there are no pictures as it usually gets eaten too quickly


Rhubarb Loaf Cake

I made this yummy cake last night and following requests for the recipe; here it is….

I have loads of Rhubarb chopped up in bags in my freezer and as we are not “regular” pudding eaters (trying not terribly successfully to control our weight) I thought I had better try and use some before the next crop starts appearing.  We only have one plant but it seems to be extremely happy where it is and grows like a mad thing (great for our Rhubarb Chutney) so when I was sorting the freezer yesterday I took a bag out to use and decided to try and make a cake.

The first thing I did was tip the already chopped and frozen rhubarb into a saucepan and cooked it until all the liquid had boiled off and I had a nice thick puree.


Yes I know it does not look terribly appetising but this bag of rhubarb was fairly green so not a great colour.  I added a bit of ginger powder and about a teaspoon of the sugar we had saved from some crystallised ginger.

I then set this aside to cool.

When it had cooled I made a basic cake mix – I used a 2 egg mix but I think if I make this again I will use a 3 egg  mix.

For my cake mix method see:

Anyone for cakes????

Oh – you want to know how much rhubarb? truth is I forgot to weigh it before I started but I think it would have been about 2 good size sticks.

Anyway, I added the cake mix to the pureed rhubarb and mixed it all together


Oh – and for this cake to make it a little “healthier” I used wholemeal self raising flour (because it was next to the caster sugar in the cupboard)

I lined a 2lb loaf tin with paper and popped it in the oven at 160 degrees


Again this is something I was learning as I went along… After 45 minutes it looked like this..


but I decided it needed a little longer as when I took it out it was quite floppy so in total it took just over an hour.

I would therefore put it in at slightly higher temperature – but no higher than 180 when making this again, but eventually it looked like this…



We were a bit impatient to try it with our cup of tea so I cut a couple of slices and we had it warm (would have been very nice with a dollop of ice cream if we had any…)


Very yummy!   I’m going to have to make this again very soon to try the variations I have thought of – that is, use a 3 egg mix and bake at a slightly higher temperature.  Now I mixed the rhubarb in well but you could always “marble” it or perhaps layer it by putting in half of the cake mix, then the puree and the rest of the cake mix on top,  go on… experiment, its fun!! If you don’t like Rhubarb then try raspberries or whatever fruit you fancy.



The Box of Burgers: Burger Soup

I’ve posted before about the box of burgers that we acquired which were leftover from the church barb-e-que last summer and all the different thing I have used them for…meatballs, sausage rolls, “Toad” in the hole, as well as roasting them with some gravy, but I still have a lot in the freezer (it was a big box)

The other day I was contemplating what to do with some celery and carrots that were sitting in my fridge needing to be used when I started to develop the idea of making some soup.  What else could I put in it? I still have quite a lot of these burgers in my freezer (the drawer is quite heavy to pull out) so I started thinking along the lines of breaking up a couple of these into the soup along with some leftover passata that I had frozen.

Saturday morning arrived and I had promised myself a lazy slow start to the day following a hectic couple of weeks and fighting off a “sniffle” so I switched on the TV and found that one of my favorite food programs was on – Pioneer Woman.

Imagine my surprise when she proceeded to make Beefburger soup!!! just what I had been thinking of making.  I have not seen this episode before as we are about a year behind in the UK and she was using pretty much the same ingredients that I had (plus she had a few more and she used fresh mince rather than burgers)

So here’s what I did:

I defrosted two burgers (they are quite big – quarter pounders I think) and began to gently fry them and break them up in my casserole pot (no need to add any oil as enough fat would come out of the burgers)

I then chopped up one red onion, two sticks of celery, three small carrots (don’t bother peeling, just scrub them clean) I chopped these quite finely so that they were a similar size to the mince.

I also had a bunch of VERY sad looking spring onions, so rather that waste these, I took the outer layer off and found that they were still quite fresh and green underneath so I chopped these up and added them in.

I had some passatta which was left over in a carton in the freezer so I added some boiling water to dissolve and poured it into the casserole dish.

I added some salt and pepper and a stock cube (although I would now probably leave the salt out as the stock cube is quite salty,  A teaspoon of mustard and a splash of Worcestershire sauce and let this cook for a while.

Now I did not want this until later, so I transferred it all into a slow cooker and left it to simmer away for a couple of hours.

When it came to time to dish up, I added some gravy thickening granules to thicken it up a little and served with a slice of bread and butter.  YUM!!!

This provided a generous portion for hubby and a nice portion for me, with the leftovers going into a freezer container for another day.


I shall definitely be making this again

Diet Tip; Read the Small Print!!!

There are many, many different “diets” to choose from and follow if you are trying to shed a few pounds in weight, but at the end of the day the basic formula is that you need to consume less calories than you burn off and be careful of your portion sizes.

While following a recipe earlier in the week, I wanted to adapt it slightly so that I could make it a little “healthier” in that I wanted to use less pasta to reduce the calorie content slightly.

Now I have an app which will scan the bar-code of a product and then you enter the quantity and it works out all the nutritional content for you, but this day I was writing down the ingredients and working it out as I went along and I made a discovery……

Nutritional labels can be misleading if you don’t read them carefully….

I was looking at a packet of Cannelloni pasta and trying to work out how many calories were in each tube, how many were supposed to be in a portion etc.  and I was struggling – it wasn’t making sense… then I realised what was going on.

When I look at nutritional labels I always go by the “per 100g” table and would normally think that this was correct.  On my pack of Cannelloni it says that there are 155kcal per 100g, so you would think that a standard 75g portion would be 116kcals.. WRONG!!!!!

Next to the 100g table, is another which says “per 180g cooked pasta (approx 75g dry pasta) which says that it is 280kcal.  So I checked the maths and yes this did work back correctly to 155kcal per 100g but nowhere did it state that this was the calorie content of COOKED pasta.

So I began to check a few other labels and discovered that there is quite a variation in how they are presented.

  • A packet of Fusilli pasta said “per 100g (as consumed)” 124kcal but a 75g portion was 224kcal – therefore 100g COOKED pasta was the stated 124kcal
  • a pack of Cous Cous again says “per 100g (as consumed) 107kcal with a note saying that 35g uncooked cous cous weighs approximately 80g when cooked, and on the front of the packet it says “an 80g serving (boiled) provides 86kcal”.  Now I wouldn’t be surprised if most people looked at the information on the front and saw that a serving size was 80g, weighed out 80g for their meal missing the bit in small print which says that 35g yields a cooked weight of 80g, and Whoops! have now consumed something like 250kcal when they thought they were only having 86 – THREE TIMES AS MUCH! (I actually had to resort to searching on the internet to confirm the calorie content of dry cous cous as being over 300kcal per 100g)
  • Quinoa; per 100g (cooked as directed) 111kcal – per 1/10 pack 34kcal.  Right, the packet has 300g so 1/10 equals 30g quinoa is 34kcal, Again, a hunt on the internet discovers that 100g dry weight Quinoa is approximately 300 calories so actually, so not only is this misleading – this label is incorrect as a 30g portion which makes about 70-80g cooked would be about 80 – 90 calories.  (I will be sending them an e-mail)
  • Rice: again “as consumed per 100g = 114kcals” but a 75g dry weight portion yields 185g cooked making it 210kcals – the dry weight therefore is approximately 280kcal per 100g.

I’ve noticed a similar thing with some Pearl Barley I have, some lasagna appears to have the same issue.  All of these are coming up at around 3 times the number of calories than shown.  Now most of these packs came from the same supermarket so other producers may have their labels differently – but the one that came from a different (leading) supermarket was completely wrong.

So if you are trying to monitor your calorie intake – be very careful with reading the labels, check the recommended portion size in the small print and use the lower weight which yields the correct cooked weight portion and number of calories..

This discovery has actually made me a bit cross as I do not consider myself stupid, yet I was falling for this – I spent 30 years working as an Accountant/Analyst so this sort of stuff is easy for me to work out, but what happens to those who are shall we say a little more challenged when it comes to numbers??  and are struggling to work out why they are carefully counting the calories and sticking to it diligently and not getting the results they should… I feel a campaign coming on….

Who’s with me?

Mackerel & Yellow Tomato Rice Bake


Last year we managed to grow some tomatoes and I made some soups and passattas with some of the glut that we had.  (I still have some tomatoes in the freezer.)

One of the varieties we grew was called “Citronella” – they are a tomato which look like a lemon in shape and size and have a hint of a lemon flavour to them.  They are a bit quirky but make an interesting contrast if you are having mixed tomatoes or fancy something a little different.  I had made some soup with these and still had a couple of containers lurking in the freezer.

The soup was very simple to make by just frying an onion and adding all the chopped tomatoes and cooking until they were softened.  I added a stock cube for seasoning and then blitzed to make a nice smooth soup.  Don’t bother with all the cheffy trying to peel the skin and de-seed, that’s where the colour comes from and you don’t need to add any more liquid unless you want a thinner soup.

Anyway…. for dinner tonight I decided to experiment and get one of these out and make a rice bake dish.

I used (for the two of us):

  • 100g wholegrain brown rice (or whatever you have)
  • 1 tub Yellow tomato soup (I will discuss alternatives later)
  • 1 tin smoked mackerel (you could use fresh if you have it)
  • A generous handful of frozen peas

Because I was using wholegrain rice which takes a lot longer to cook I part cooked the rice first.  Rinsed well and drained and then added the soup.  I used a hob to oven casserole dish so I heated it up before popping in the oven at about 180 for about 30 minutes.  Checking occasionally to give it a stir and make sure that it did not dry out too soon.

Now if you don’t happen to have some yellow tomato soup in your freezer, you can get a similar flavour by adding a small preserved lemon (you can buy them in jars) to plain rice and when the rice is almost cooked it will have softened enough to break down and mix up with the rice.  As I was using a pre-made soup I did not need to add any more seasoning but if you taste it and want some more then add as desired.

Alternatively you could use a tin of standard tomato soup or passatta which will also work well with mackerel.

Once the rice had fluffed up and there was not much moisture left, I broke up the mackerel and mixed in with the rice along with the frozen peas.

I put this back into the oven for about 5-10 minutes to heat the mackerel and the peas.  If you are using fresh or uncooked mackerel then you will need to leave this in for longer.

Now I’m sure that if you wanted to you could probably add some parmesan cheese on top but I resisted this time as I wanted to keep this dish reasonably healthy.  Mackerel is quite high in calories although very good for you.

If you don’t want to use your oven then you could continue to cook on the hob as it is quite similar to a risotto.

Once everything is piping hot, serve and enjoy – I did and I’m not that keen on fish.

Cake Slice for the Birthday Boy


Hubby’s birthday this year fell on a day where we were helping with the church youth group, so as they can usually be relied on to devour any food available, I offered to make him a Birthday Cake.

He then decided that rather than a standard birthday cake, he wanted “one of my slices”

I have been making this on occasion for a few years now and it developed primarily from liking a Raspberry and Almond slice from a certain high street coffee shop.  In addition to that, I had made a form of individual cake/pies as an alternative to Mince pies(which I don’t like) at Christmas which were basically Jam tarts with a bit of sponge mix on top.

So: The Method;

I happened to have a bit of pastry (short) left over in the freezer so I got this out to defrost and use but you can use pre rolled, ready roll or make your own, whichever is your preference. (I’m flexible like that..)

If you need to roll out any pastry, then try my baking tip and roll it out between some cling film


Once you have rolled out your pastry to the required size, line your baking tin and bake blind for about 10 – 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and spread jam, mincemeat, marmalade or whatever your desired filling is over the pastry base.  I had some very thick home made strawberry jam which I was using.  This was so thick I had to put the tray back into the oven to start melting the jam so that I could spread it!.


Make your cake mix;

For the size of the tin I used I made a 2 egg mix

see for my method or adjust your favorite recipe

Depending on your jam flavour you could add a little almond essence/vanilla/lemon juice or substitute some cocoa powder for about 1/4 of the flour (to make a chocolate cake topping – I would add a tiny bit extra baking powder if adding cocoa powder)

Beat your cake mix well and then spread over the top of the jam.


Return to the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes at around 170 degrees until the cake is baked.

Now depending on how well you baked your pastry to start with, I often find that the pastry is not quite cooked, so I turn the cake out onto a cooling rack (cake side down) and then slid it back into the tin with the pastry faced up and returned it to the oven for another 5-10 minutes until the pastry was nice and crisp.


Once the cake has cooled you can ice or decorate it as you please.  Hubby decided that he wanted it kept simple and just dusted with icing sugar, so here is the end result.


Cut up into smaller slices (mine cut into 16) and enjoy with a nice up of tea (or whatever…)

As I mentioned earlier. you could make individual ones instead of mince pies or make mince pies with a difference.

Offcuts Pie

Yesterday I was planning on making a Cottage Pie for our dinner with some mince from the freezer but with a cauliflower mash topping for a change (using frozen cauliflower)

I wandered into my local supermarket and there were some nice looking small fresh cauliflowers on the reduced shelf for 55p so I decided to get one and use it for the topping for our dinner later.

I was hungry as I had not yet had any lunch and decided to buy a single roll and go to the Deli counter and buy a slice of chicken/ham or cheese, or whatever was a good price,

As I got to the counter, the assistant was marking down some packs of offcuts to 49p, so  I asked her what they were and she explained that they were just a random mix of all the little bits that were left after slicing  so it was “pot luck” what was in there.

As it was only 49p for 260g of meat I decided to risk it and have some in my roll and then hubby could have some in his wraps for his lunch the next day.

On opening the pack there was a good selection of Ham, bacon, Chicken, Turkey, peppered beef.

During my walk home I wondered if I could use this to make the “Pie” instead and so the “Offcuts Pie” was created.


So here’s what I did;

I had about 200g of meat left after my sandwich so I chopped this up into smaller pieces and popped them into a frying pan – no need to add any oil or fat as there was a little on some of the ham and heated this up.

I added some water and made a gravy using my usual gravy granules.  I add a little bit of hoisin sauce left in a bottle so I put this into the gravy for some extra flavour and poured all this into my baking dish.

To make the topping I chopped up the cauliflower and boiled in some seasoned water for a few minutes until it started to soften.

I then drained the water off (realising that I should have done this first and used the water for the gravy to keep all the nutrients in the dish).

I then mashed the cauliflower up with a little mustard, butter and a small amount of cheese (I had some cheddar but you can use whatever you have – a cream cheese would be nice) and then spread the mix on the top of the meat & gravy.

This went into the oven at 180degrees for about 30 minutes until the cauliflower had browned an the gravy was bubbling.


I served this with some carrots.

We really enjoyed this and it was also fun to eat as you were never sure what the next mouthful would contain.

You can of course vary this in many ways by making a more traditional base using onions and tomatoes to make a rich gravy and add extra vegetables.

The topping of course can be made with potatoes, swede, any vegetable you choose really.  On of the advantages of using the cauliflower is that the calorie content is greatly reduced (as long as you only use a tiny amount of butter and cheese – just enough to help give a bit of colour and hold it together) and also good if you want to watch your carbohydrates.

Try it – its fun and very tasty and cheap!!