COVID 19 Lock Down pie without using pastry.

Lock down has made health and weight management a lot more challenging than usual and as a result I am having what Slimming World call an SP week. This means lots and of hard to digest veg with some protein and no carbs.

For pastry making (pie crust) this becomes very difficult. Added to this is the challenge of using what is in as the cupboard without recourse to a quick pop to the shop.

Root vegetables are often used as alternative to pastry (avoiding potatoes) but these were also in short supply as I had made a big vat of soup earlier in the day. Some might say better planning would have prevented this but even with plans I often go off in a new direction so this might still have been an issue.

The one thing working in my favour was my daily allowance of fibre rich food (which does include carbs) and my daily allowance of calcium rich (I have it as fat rich as I have plenty of calcium elsewhere in my diet) food. Today this would manifest itself as 40g of rolled oats and 30g of grated cheddar. However I am getting ahead of myself.

Half an hour of research gave me nothing that ticked the box for me either through ingredients available or that hard to measure ‘Mmmmmm’ factor. As a result I put my inventive head on and this was the thoroughly successful result.

Pie Topping Ingredients:

  • 40g rolled oats
  • 30g grated cheddar
  • 4 balls frozen spinach defrosted
  • 1 egg
  • Seasoning


  • Mix together throughly.
  • Spread over the pie filling.
  • Bake in the oven for thirty minutes (in my case along side shortcrust topped pies for everyone else).

The results was a surprisingly firm pie crust that also tased delicious. The oats gave it a real pleasurable texture with spinach and cheese combing really well. My filling was chicken, leak and mushroom and was served with plenty of cabbage and mangetout. You can obviously change the filling and the side veg to suit yourself.

I will try it again but will also try blind baking a pie base (As you do with Pease Pudding Pastry – also detailed on this blog).

This is dead easy, quick and tasty. Give it ago.

Rhubarb Relish

This is an adapted recipe from a Riverford Organic Farmers. My wife, Maggie, adapted it whilst making the given recipe for herself. It is quick easy and very tasty. As we have my late father-in-law’s rhubarb growing with real gusto in the garden, it was pleasing to find a real alternative use for it. I have also discovered eating rhubarb raw with bananas and yoghurt is a spot on breakfast.

The real game changer is that I preferred it to the regular recipe so it wasn’t even like a sad alternative. The flavour was fuller. The use of water instead of orange juice made the difference I think. The result is a tangier, less sweet final product.

This is the recipe for a small quantity seen in the picture. If you are going to store it or make it for more people then just multiply up your ingredients.


  • 150g rhubarb, cut into small pieces
  • 3 tbsps sweetener
  • Zest of one orange
  • 125ml water
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • Chilli powder (1tsps for average fire and 2tsps for a bit more umph)


  • Put all the ingredients in a pan together.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally .
  • Add water if becoming too thick and cook for longer if too wet.
  • Eat.

I ate mine with some sweet potato and chick pea felafel and also with a burger and it was grrrrrrrrrrreat (to quite Tony the Tiger).

When you need a bit of something sweet for breakfast.

My tastebuds were yearning a treat this morning without scuppering my food regime.

Banana Fritters/pancakes was the solution and these were delicious. This batch made five 3” pancakes and I am stuffed. Feel free to adjust for a full fat version.


  • 40g rolled oats. (can be used as they are but I grind mine in a coffee grinder)
  • 2 bananas (1 mashed and 1 sliced)
  • 1 egg
  • 100 ml 0% fat yoghurt (natural for soft pancakes and Greek for firmer pancakes)
  • 1 tsp sweetener
  • 3 tbsp 0% sugar/fat pancake syrup (I used Walden Farms)


  • Mash the banana in a mixing bowl.
  • Add egg, oats, 50ml yoghurt and mix thoroughly.
  • Heat non stick frying pan and cook in batches. They will hold less well than regular pancakes so aim to cook fewer at a time to allow for smooth quick turns. Wait for bubbles coming through as you would do with American style pancakes.
  • Serve on a plate with sliced banana, the remaining yoghurt and the pancake syrup.

Quick, easy and tasty Sea Bass and sautéed potatoes (plus some veg).

This recipe was the result of the good old BBC. When you have ingredients and fancy trying something new Google nearly always brings me to BBC Good Food. You have a link to the recipe I started with but of course I have amended it a little to be even more waistline friendly.

This recipe served two people with very generous portions. You can multiply up for larger numbers. The only exception to this is the dressing which made enough for four people , even in its reduced fat version. The bonus is it is really, really easy to make and was ready in about 30 minutes. For those in SW I synned my portion of dressing at 1.5 syns. The rest is free.


  • 2 sea bass fillets
  • 1 large baking potato sliced into thick slices
  • A wok full of spinach (piled high) with 2 tbsps water
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes (cut in half)
  • 3 or 4 large mushrooms (sliced)
  • 1 lemon (zested and juiced)
  • 3 tsps capers
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard


  • Pre heat oven to 200 degree Celsius (Gas Mark 7).
  • Line a baking tray with baking parchment.
  • Par boil potato slices for twenty minutes (skin on).
  • Mix lemon juice, lemon zest, capers, olive oil and mustard to make the dressing and put to one side.
  • Drain potatoes and put to one side.
  • Lay the fish fillets on the baking parchment skin side up. Spray with oil and season with salt flakes (I used a ground garlic and salt mix from the supermarket).
  • Put sliced tomatoes and mushrooms in a hot pan sprayed with fry light (I also added a chopped chilli for a little fire). Also season to your own taste. Add a splash of water to keep it moist whenever needed. Turn down to simmer after five minutes
  • Heat up the wok, stirring occasionally, until the spinach has cooked to a nice wilted pile. Turn down to low if finished before the fish,
  • Spray a frying with fry light and heat. Once hot lay slices of potatoes over the pan.
  • Put the fish in the middle of the oven for 7 minutes
  • Spray oil on the potatoes and turn them after four minutes (or when browned nicely on one side).
  • Just before the fish is ready plate up veg. I also sprinkled some lemon juice on the finished spinach and seasoned lightly.
  • Place the fish where you fancy, we all have our preference, and drizzle with dressing.
  • Eat.

Mother’s Day Dinner Under Lock Down And The Shadow of COVID19.

Today’s challenge was to make a Mother’s Day meal that was luscious, at least partly healthy, and using what was in rather than going down to the supermarket and buying more stuff and adding to the unnecessary shopping and hoarding going on. If you want the good stuff jump straight to the pudding at the end.

Now before I go into the meal you should ask what Maggie was doing at the same time. She was laying as a small patio area with Reuben in support. This left me free to get on with things in the kitchen.

With Maggie and Reuben in the garden and me in the kitchen we were also ensuring we were not out about and were maintaining our social isolation.

The main course was drawn from the Pinch of Nom cook book and the Slimming World Free Food A to Z. If you are not a Slimming World aficionado Free Food is food you can eat as much as you want until comfortably full (no weighing etc). It should include at least a third of those less calorific and harder to digest foods like leaf vegetables, carrots, onions etc. If you want to know more about Slimming World you would need to sign up. The Pinch of Nom book (and website) have list of healthy recipes well suited (but not affiliated to )to approaches like Slimming World. The pudding comes from Mary Berry’s Quick Cooking book. This is a brilliant book and easy to make healthy (apart from the puddings). Right enough spiel and let’s get down to food.

The main course included chicken tikka kebabs (the original recipe used tandoori spice mix but I only had a tikka spice mix in), Mediterranean vegetables and an upgrade couscous mix. I bit of a taste fusion made up of a little of what we like.

The chicken kebabs are made using a marinade using the following ingredients:

  • 200g 0% fat greek yoghurt
  • 4 tbsp chicken tikka spice mix
  • Garlic clove (crushed or grated)
  • 2cm root ginger (grated)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 3 large chicken breasts cut into chunks (one per person)


  • Mix all the ingredients, other than the chicken, until you have a smooth paste.
  • Stir in the chicken and coat thoroughly.
  • Leave to marinade for as long as possible, ideally at least two hours.
  • Put onto skewers and cook under a hot grill, turning regularly (about thirty minutes) or bake in the oven for 35 minutes.

The Mediterranean vegetables were just a straight forward mix of what was in, in this case chopped chucks of peppers, onions, courgettes and cherry tomatoes , sprayed with fry light and baked in the oven for thirty minutes.

Now the couscous comes from a recipe with other ingredients, I have just lifted this component as it suited what I needed. It is called Mediterranean Couscous and my mix reflects what was in and what I fancied. You can also added chopped spring onions and chopped chillis but I left these off this time.

Ingredients ( all mixed together once your couscous has been prepared).

  • 250g cooked chickpeas
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 3 tbsp chopped mint
  • 50g rocket, roughly chopped

Spice mix of 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp tumeric, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon mixed with 2 tbsp lemon juice. This should also be stirred i into the couscous.

Finally we reach dessert and this one is not low calorie. Mary Berry calls it Indulgent Chocolate Surprise and I know a version of (from a Kiwi friend we knew in Malawi named Didge) called Self-Saucing chocolate Sponge. It is really easy, delicious and luscious. We had neither in but it would be served well with ice cream or custard but great on its own.

Sponge Ingredients:

  • 60g caster sugar
  • 60g semolina
  • 30g cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 30g butter (melted) plus some extra for greasing the dish
  • 2 eggs

Ingredients for the sauce:

  • 100 muscovado sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 300ml water (MB said boiling, I missed this point but it worked fine with cold water)


  • Mix caster sugar, semolina, cocoa and baking powder in a large bowl.
  • Mix the melted butter and eggs, beating with a fork.
  • Pour into the dry mix and whisk gently until mixed to a smooth cake mix.
  • Spoon the sponge mix into the greased dish and gently smooth the top to an even level across the dish.
  • Mix all the sauce ingredients until smooth and pour over the sponge mix.
  • Bake in the oven for 35 minutes until the spring is well risen and the sauce is bubbling underneath.

Serve and eat… enjoy.

Time to start planning for those winter parties or summer B-B-Qs

This is a recipe for when you are entertaining and although this one relies on carrots it will work well with spinach, celeriac and even beetroot. It is gluten free and vegetarian. It isn’t Vegan I am afraid but I would be interested in someone trying the recipe with the vegan alternatives for eggs and mayonnaise (or quark).

It is surprisingly easy and quick to make with the only real chore being grating the carrot.

I am going to work on a sweet version of this as a carrot cake roulade with sweetened quark or even sweetened low fat cream cheese for a little more indulgence. Beetroot might allow for a red velvet version and cocoa for a chocolate roulade. If anyone has a go please share the results.

Carrot Roulade


  • 6 eggs (separated)
  • 700g carrots (grated)
  • 1 bunch of coriander (half chopped and half leaves removed from stalks)
  • 2 tbsp Black Onion seeds
  • 2 tbsp Chilli flakes (reduce or remove for your own taste)
  • 10 tbsp (200g) Hellman’s Lighter Than Light Mayonnaise (or quark mixed with lemon juice)
  • 1 jar roasted red peppers (chopped)
  • 1 bunch of watercress (roughly chopped).
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan (optional)
  • Fry Light oil or equivalent


  • 1 wok or frying pan (ideally non-stick)
  • Electric whisk
  • Swiss roll tray
  • Baking parchment


  1. Pre-heat oven goes Gas Mark 6 or 200 C.
  2. Line a Swiss roll tray with baking parchment.
  3. Sprinkle parmesan and 1 tbsp of black onions seeds over the parchment.
  4. Lay coriander leaves over the parmesan and Black Onion seeds.
  5. Spray a large non-stick frying pan or wok with oil and heat.
  6. Add the carrots and cook for 10 minutes until soft (keep stirring). The water coming from the carrots will help prevent catching or burning.
  7. Put the cooked carrots in a bowl to cool.
  8. Whisk egg whites to stiff peaks.
  9. Mix chopped coriander, chilli flakes and 1 tbsp of black onion seeds into carrot mix.
  10. Beat egg yolks into the carrot mix.
  11. Fold in the egg whites to the carrot mix.
  12. Pour the carrot mix onto the Swiss roll tin.
  13. Place in the middle of the oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
  14. Mix the mayonnaise (or lemon quark) with chopped red peppers and watercress leaves.
  15. Put the tin on a rack to cool.
  16. Once cool spread mayonnaise mix onto the carrot sponge leaving a clear space around the edge (about 1cm).
  17. Roll the roulade short edge to short edge using the parchment and then lift and place on a serving Serve with salads such as the Gujarati Carrot salad (grated carrot, lemon juice and black onion seeds.; or if you have used mayonnaise for the filling, why not dollop on some lemon quark (200g quark with juice of half a lemon).

Running a healthier kitchen with a truculent teenager in tow.

One of the challenges of trying to either lose weight, or keep weight off, is the expectations and demands of your nearest and dearest.

How many of us have to navigate bags of crisps, biscuits, treat drawers and tubs of ice creams stored for those less concerned about their weight. Then add on the the belief of many of the ‘younger’ generation that diet is something for us oldies to worry about.

My youngest son is adamant that most vegetables spoil a good meal. Onions are clearly poisonous, tomatoes (unless blended) induce vomiting and anything exotic should not be found north of the Watford gap, let alone in Yorkshire.

Today proved to be a successful day in the battle to get some fibre and vitamins into his stomach without any grumbling. The strategy was in two stages. The first was my lunch with a home made carrot and coriander soup (with onions and chopped tomatoes included) blended to a smooth soup.

I enjoyed two large bowl fulls for my lunch but clearly there was no way he was going to eat such foul stuff. He opted for a tin of macaroni cheese padded out with chopped hot dog sausages.

The initial outcome of his choice was to discover it was disgusting…

He then resorted to the natural home of teenage boys, a bowl of cereal.

I was playing the long game and had made enough soup for stage two of the operation that aimed to get some vegetables into his system.

Tea was going to be Keema curry. 200g of lean minced beef padded out with half a finely chopped aubergine, more onion, frozen mixed veg and of course some curry powder (I was being lazy, sorry). Once this was all cooking along with a beef stock cube and water to beef the flavour up and a dollop of tomato purée my secret ingredient was added, left over carrot and coriander soup. This served perfectly as a sauce of the curry.

Served up with brown basmati rice and being eaten energetically by him I felt a victory had been achieved. The only minor loss was his grabbing taco’s from the cupboard for a Anglo/Indian/Mexican fusion. I accepted this a price worth paying for the surreptitious consumption of vegetables.

Dad 2 : Teenage Son 1.

Pease Pudding Pastry – this is worth it.

A while ago someone in my SW group shared Pease Pudding pastry and I even bought a can of Pease Pudding at the time but never got around to trying it.

For some reason this week I decided to give it a go and really really pleased with the outcome. It is a gluten free, waistline friendly alternative to flour based pastry. and allowed me to make some great pies for tea.

The pastry itself is not complex. I emptied three cans of pease pudding in to my mixer bowl, added four eggs and then mixed until I had a smoothish paste. The pastry itself is very different to regular pastry as you don’t roll it out.

However you won’t have my regular battles when making shortcrust pastry with too much butter/flour/over rolled etc etc .

I sprayed my pie dishes (I used three single dishes) with spray oil and then spooned three dollops into each dish. You then gently push and move it around until you have an even coverage around the dish and over the edge (for the top). It is worth spending a little time on this making sure it is as even as is possible. It won’t be pastry smooth but it still works.

I then blind baked my cases in a medium oven for thirty minutes. It is worth checking every now and then because each oven is different. You do not need to use any beans to hold the base down.

Once they are firm enough, with a firm top layer but still some give underneath, then bring them out to fill. The surface will be cracked but this is normal as long as it is not cracked all the way through.

Fill your pie with your chosen filling. I made a steak and mushroom filling with gravy made using stock, Worcestershire sauce and tomato purée. One thing I learned is that the pie can hold more gravy than I expected and so will allow more gravy inside the pie next time.

I then spooned three dollops on top and smoothed it around over the top and even forked the edges for the real pie look.

I bake in the oven until I had a browning top. I cannot give a precise time yet for this as I was adjusting the temperature and position in the oven to cater for Maggie’s decision to go for a bike ride before tea. In reality thirty minutes in a hot oven should do.

It felt like a really indulgent treat when I ate my pie. Pastry has been one of the things I have had far less off to get my weight loss and now I have a great alternative. Reuben was ok with it but said he would rather have a mashed potato topping (he is very predictable). Maggie, who can resist some of the SW alternatives, ate the lot.

In reality this is not a SW recipe but a traditional recipe form the north of England, used when times were hard and flour was too expensive. Certainly far more traditionally British than Fish and Chips or a Chicken Rogan Josh.

For me it is now a firm favourite, I want to try a sweet version to make lower calorie dessert pie. I do like my puddings.

Roasted Tomato Pasta Sauce

This is another great recipe for using up surplus tomatoes if you have been growing them, or just a great sauce that is far superior to jars of pasta sauce. This is the really lazy version with the only real effort in slicing the tomatoes in half.

Unlike many recipes I have seen this uses no sugar, or onions and instead of tbsps of olive oil, this uses only a good squirt of spray olive oil.

I apologise now for not giving a precise quantity of tomatoes used as I didn’t weigh them. What I can say is I had enough tomatoes to cover two baking trays.

This is also vegetarian and vegan so suitable for almost any dietary regime.

I can confirm that it is delicious.


  • A large pile of cherry tomatoes (probably over 1kg)
  • Spray olive oil
  • 4 tsps of dry Italian herbs (or any fresh/dry combo you like).
  • 4 tsps garlic granules
  • 250ml veg stock.
  • Salt and pepper to your taste


  1. Slice all the tomatoes in half and put in a large bowl.
  2. Add the herbs, garlic and seasoning.
  3. Spray the mix with olive oil spray stirring to coat well.
  4. Line two baking trays with grease proof paper or baking parchment.
  5. Put in a hot oven (250 C).
  6. Bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Transfer to a large pan.
  8. Add the stock, bring to the boil and then simmer for 5 minutes.
  9. Blend to your preferred smoothness. Is used a stick blender in the same pan.
  10. Cool, store, freeze or cook with straight away or any combination of the above depending on quantities made and the numbers you are feeding.

Green Tomato Chutney (with no added sugar)

This year is Maggie’s first for growing tomatoes, having inherited a green house from her late father and the need to garden to escape some of the draining aspects of work.

The consequence was clear, she had inherited her father’s green fingers without the off switch of experience that limits the number of plants.

However this opened a new opportunity for me as I have never made chutney or jam, other than the odd batch of lemon curd. When I shared a picture Maggie’s bumper crop of tomatoes, lined up in a windowsill to ripen, everyone said ‘Make green tomato chutney’.

After some initial browsing online it was clear that most recipes involve a vast quantity of sugar but with some perseverance I found one that is sugar free (other than that that occurs naturally in the ingredient fruit and veg).

All fairness requires that I share the source of this recipe. I found it on Farmer Dave’s site. However Farmer Dave had borrowed it in turn from Farmgirl Fare and now it has travelled on to me and then to any of you that reads this. ‘Six Degree of Separation’ now feels like it’s more like ‘Three Degrees of Separation’.

Now before I jump into the recipe I must note that it was damn hard work making the chutney. I am glad it would only be an annual endeavour at most. A day over a hot stove, sterilising jars and then filling them was also satisfying. The outcome is 24 jars, each with with about 250g of chutney in them with a SW value of less than 1/2 a syn a jar.

You will need to adjust quantities to match your available ingredients.


  • 1kg of green tomatoes, cored and chopped (mine were cherry tomatoes so no coring and just halved or quartered)
  • 500g of chopped onions
  • 750g of red peppers, deseeded and chopped
  • 500g of cored and chopped bramley apples (no need to peel)
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I cheated and used ready chopped garlic)
  • 250ml of cider vinegar (you can use less of storing all in the fridge but that takes a lot of space)
  • 4 large red chilli peppers, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 hot chilli ( I used a fatali pepper) finely chopped with seeds
  • 2 tbsp of chopped coriander
  • 1tsp of cumin
  • 1 tbsp sea salt/kosher salt


  1. Put tomatoes, onions, peppers, apples, vinegar and salt in a large pan and bring to the boil.
  2. Once boiling reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Leave the pot uncovered. The mix should thicken over the time.
  3. Stir in the chillis, coriander and cumin and simmer for a further five minutes.
  4. Blend the mix (I used a stick blender although you could do it in batches using a food processor). Don’t blend too much, a slightly Chucky mix is best.
  5. Put into jars and seal. I sterilised mine by washing, rinsing and then putting in the oven for 15 minutes.