I’ve got a hand spiralizer rather than one that sits on the worktop so I wasn’t sure until I tried this dish whether I could use it for butternut squash. Turns out it works if you chop the squash into carrot size pieces but that the ‘spaghetti’ you get from it will be a bit shorter than usual because it doesn’t really turn as well as you’d like.
It really didn’t matter though, this was really tasty and comforting. Great food for cold weather, pretty low in calories but with all the taste of a far more fattening pasta dish.
FOR THE MEATBALLS
- 400g turkey mince
- 1/2 onion diced
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 egg
- Some breadcrumbs (these aren’t essential)
- mixed dried herbs (or some fresh ones if you have them)
FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE
- One tin of chopped tomatoes
- A squeeze of tomato puree
- 1/2 onion diced
- 1 clove of garlic
- a teaspoon of sugar
FOR THE BUTTERNUT SQUASH NOODLES
- One medium sized butternut squash
- Cooking oil spray
TO MAKE THE MEATBALLS
Start off by frying the onion in some oil at a medium heat until it’s golden, add the garlic and then fry a couple of minutes longer then put them on a plate and let them cool a bit. Add them to the turkey mince, the egg, the breadcrumbs and the herbs in a bowl, season and then squish together with your hands. Not too much though because that will make them really tough and dense. It feels sort of weird and maybe even a bit nice.
Roll the mixture into golf ball style balls. My mixture felt a bit sloppy and wet so they weren’t the most perfect golf balls but it didn’t seem to make them taste bad.
Cover the plate and put them in the fridge so they can bind together. Or something.
TO MAKE THE TOMATO SAUCE
Fry the onion until golden on a medium heat, add the garlic and fry a bit longer. Add the tin of tomatoes, the tomato paste and about a teaspoon of sugar and then simmer on a fairly low heat for about half an hour. It’ll taste good when it’s done. You’ll need to stir it fairly often and, if you’re anything like me, keep tasting it too.
TO MAKE THE BUTTERNUT SQUASH SPAGHETTI
I think you’d be best getting a butternut squash that is long and thin for this, look for the ones that don’t bulge out as much at the bottom. Cut that bulgy bit off and then use it for roast butternut squash another time. Peel the rest of the squash and then cut it into carrot sized chunks that will fit into the spiralizer. Spiralize the chunks (this is sort of cool cos you end up with what looks like butternut squash tulips, again you can roast them for another time) and then spread the spirals (or little short spirals) out on a baking tray, drizzle or spray with some oil, season and pop in the oven at about 180 degrees centigrade.
Cook it in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, the best way to check if it’s done is just to try it.
While that’s cooking get a big frying pan, stick some oil in the bottom and then fry the meatballs over a medium heat, keep turning them till they’ve got a bit of a brown exterior but aren’t quite cooked in the middle and then add the tomato sauce, let it all bubble away for about ten minutes, check the turkey is cooked in the middle (I’m utterly paranoid about poultry poisoning) then serve the meatballs and sauce over the top of the butternut squash spaghetti with some parmesan grated on top. Super tasty lovely healthy joyful times.
It may seem like an obvious statement – I love food. I really love food. And, as anyone who loves food knows, there comes a time when you have to figure out how to love food without eating All the Food. Since I met The Boy a year ago I’ve put on a couple of stone by stuffing my face with delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner with wild abandon. All the dinners out and new recipes cooked with love have taken their toll. So I started the 5:2 diet a while ago. For anyone who’s been living under a rock for the last couple of years it’s a pretty simple concept, 2 days a week (fast days) you restrict your calorie intake to 500 calories if you’re a woman and 600 calories if you’re a man, the rest of the time you eat normally. I’ve found the best thing for me is to have two fast days during the week, be fairly healthy and careful the other 3 week days and then let loose at the weekend. So far, so good. Rather than eat 3 tiny meals on a fast day (just makes me hungrier) I like to save my 500 calories and have a healthy, larger evening meal. Protein and veg is the order of the day, carbs use up just too many calories, so I’ve been looking at healthy carb alternatives to my usual staples and have put together a few of them with recipes here.
Cauliflower is amazing! Who knew the humble wee white tree could be so versatile and tasty. You can use it as a replacement for all sorts of things. So far my favourite ways to use it are Cauliflower Rice and Cauliflower pizza base.
To make a cauliflower pizza base I looked at a few different recipes – including this one – and then played around with them.
Cauliflower Pizza Base (serves 2)
- 1 cauliflower head, stalk, stem and leaves removed
- 1 egg
- Half a ball of half fat mozzarella, try and grate it but usually it’s too soft so just make sure it’s as small as you can get it
- Salt and pepper
- A handful of grated parmesan, pecorino or any other hard cheese
- A pinch of dried or half a handful of fresh oregano
- A few chilli flakes
Blitz the cauliflower in a food processor or grate it with the large side of a grater till it looks roughly like bread crumbs
Microwave it for 5 minutes then let it cool.
Squeeze as much moisture out of it as you can (I just did this with my hands over the sink in batches, bit messy and smells like school dinners but it works)
Mix in all the other ingredients with your hands in a big bowl
Spray a baking tray or pizza stone with a couple of scooshes of oil
Divide the mixture into two and spread them into rough circles, pushing them down and shaping with your hands, don’t worry if it still feels a bit wet
Bake in the oven at about 200 degrees celsius until they’re golden brown on top (15-20 minutes)
Take them out and top them with all your favourite things, you can make your own pizza sauce or use pesto but I like using an intense sun dried tomato and garlic pasta sauce. With these I topped them with a slice of proscuitto each, a quarter of a red onion each and the rest of the ball of half fat mozzarella. Don’t forget the salt and pepper. Be aware they turn out a lot squishier than a usual crusty pizza base but they are a whole lot better for you and they actually taste super yummy.
OTHER CAULIFLOWER RECIPES
Cauliflower rice is really good for a fast day. Again just blitz up a head of cauliflower in your food processor (I find that’s a pretty good amount for 2 hungry people, we usually have some left overs) and then use it as a rice substitute. If you stir fry it with lots of veggies, garlic, ginger, chilli and soy sauce just make sure you put a lid over and let it steam for a while. Otherwise blitz it in the microwave for 5-7 minutes in a bowl and it’ll be cooked. I find it can be a little bit wet so it’s nice to microwave it and then dry fry it a bit afterwards.
I tried this amazingly low cal cauliflower tabbouleh with halloumi recipe last week – it’s seriously tasty and has become one of our go to meals on a fast day.
Meet the Spiralizer of Joy. I bought it in Lakeland when I went nuts a couple of weeks ago (got a food processor and an avocado fun time tool thing too). Um. It’s totally awesome. It’s like a giant pencil sharpener with two ends, one has small teeth, the other slightly bigger teeth. And all you do is insert a vegetable (courgette, carrot, cut up butternut squash) and twist it and out comes vegetable spaghetti.
I’m sort of addicted to it. It means an excellent pasta or noodle replacement with a fraction of the calories. A large courgette (I find one courgette per person works perfectly for this) has 54 calories, 100g of spaghetti has 158 calories. The best way to cook it is in a frying pan or wok with a spray of oil. It only takes a couple of minutes.
COURGETTI WITH HOMEMADE PESTO AND GRILLED CHICKEN (serves 2)
- 2 medium courgettes, spiralized
- 2 chicken breasts
- A handful of rocket
For the Pesto (you can freeze any you don’t use in a cling filmed ice cube tray)
- Packet of basil
- Handful of grated parmesan or pecorino
- Handful of pinenuts
- Clove of garlic (crushed)
- Glug of extra virgin olive oil (though the normal stuff will do)
- To make the pesto put all the ingredients except the oil into a food processor and blitz until combined, add the olive oil slowly and pulse until it’s a nice consistency for you, some people like their pesto a bit oilier than I do.
Season the chicken (it’d probably be nicer if you marinaded it earlier in the day with olive oil, rosemary, mustard and lemon juice but I didn’t on this occasion) and then grill it under a medium grill, turning it once until it’s golden brown on both sides and cooked through in the middle.
Spiralize the courgettes then fry them for a couple of minutes in a wok, add the pesto, serve with the chicken cut nicely into strips on top with some rocket to garnish.
I’ve also been enjoying making this Nigel Slater simple thai broth but replacing the noodles with courgettes. It’s really simple and easy to make, tastes delicious and is really low in calories, particularly if you replace the coconut milk with half fat stuff.
Get yourself a spiralizer and a food processor and get involved. It’s honestly made a real difference to my fast day dinners.
The Boy and I have been milking our anniversary. There was a steak dinner last weekend at Porter and Rye and this week we cashed in an Itison voucher I’d bought to stave off the winter blues and headed North to Monachyle Mhor for a wee break. I’d heard great things about this little pink boutique hotel on the shores of Loch Voil in Perthshire and particularly about the food and it really didn’t disappoint.
The drive itself from Glasgow was an absolute treat, it was one of those stunning winter days where the hills are just bathed in rosy golden light and everything you look at is like an over enthusiastic love letter to Scotland. As soon as we’d dumped our stuff we made the most of the setting sun with a coffee outside and a wander down the road.
Monachyle Mhor is a quirky little boutique hotel, we were in one of the House rooms with a loch view, white floors, walls and ceilings to showcase a set of antlers, a cosy tweedy couch and a ladder to nowhere. Moment of the weekend went to The Boy who, after a few too many rum and gingers climbed up it and was surprised when he smacked his head on the ceiling.
After behaving like the uncultured oiks that we are (putting on the cosy bathrobes, rolling around on the giant bed shouting, admiring the awesome shower and eating all the free shortbread) we got ready for dinner and headed downstairs. I love the decor here, it’s all muted, cool tones and interesting features, making the most of the uninterrupted view. The bar is a snug little cabin with a great array of drinks and a fire where we settled after dinner with an ameretto and a heated game of scrabble.
All the food here is sourced as locally as possible, with a lot of it coming from their own farm and you can tell. Aside from the 3 main courses we were served canapés (cod beignet, haggis fritters and a star turn from a tart, deep mouthful of roasted cherry tomato with a sourdough crisp), amuse bouche (a light, foamy espresso cup of leek and potato soup with an acidic caper and date dressing I’m dying to try myself and an oyster with shallot and lemon dressing which instantly invoked childhood summers poking sea anemones in rock pools. In a good way) and, with our coffee petite fours (little madeleines, rich chocolate truffley things and a super sweet homemade tablet).
As you might gather if you read this food blog often enough I can’t pass a good scallop by so it was a no brainer for the starter, a sweet, perfectly cooked Isle of Mull scallop with a tiny, delightfully crispy chicken wing, a rich, deep chicken consommé, and a couple of disks of purple potato which, to be honest, wouldn’t have been missed if they’d been removed. It was super tasty but I’m a greedy hallion and I really think it could have done with the tatties taken away and an extra scallop added.
The Boy opted for Aberfeldy wood pigeon with Tamworth pork belly and celeriac slaw. The pigeon was iron rich and the right side of rare and complimented really well by the crispy, light sliver of pork belly and the creamy celeriac slaw.
Next up it was fish for him, Scrabster Halibut with courgette, Rooster potato, caper and lemon. I’m not a massive fish fan but he informs me it was light, tasty and tangy but that he wished he’d ordered my beef.
I went for Monachyle Mhor’s own Highland Scotch beef, smoked potato and Savoy cabbage. It also came with a really wonderful, rich, thick sauce (and the right amount of it too, I hate an under sauced dish) and a little crispy bon bon. I couldn’t figure out what was in it so asked the waitress and it turned out to be bone marrow. I really loved this dish. The beef was proper tender and cooked and rested to the exact right shade of pink. The potatoes were creamy and smoky and, for a slightly OCD diner like me who likes a bit of everything on every forkful, married together perfectly with just the right amount of each element for every bite. My one criticism was that neither main course was piping hot when they got to us, only lukewarm. They tasted so good there was no way we were sending them back though!
As with most fine dining they’ve nailed the portion sizes here so we had just the right amount of room left for dessert. We shared a mango bavarois with hazelnut dacquoise (I’ve just had to look up both those words – similar to pastry cream and layered dessert cake respectively) and pomegranate jelly – refreshing, light and attractive. And we also shared a delightfully gooey and rich little chocolate fondant that came with poached pear and kumquat puree, it was a bonus getting to have half of each but I wouldn’t say either of them quite reached the heights of the previous two courses.
The staff were as attentive and friendly as you would expect from a place like this, really helpful when it came to questions about the dishes or menus and relaxed enough to steer clear of even a hint of stuffiness. We spent the evening drinking in the bar playing board games and I haven’t felt that relaxed or satisfied in a long time.
I’m breakfast obsessed, best meal of the day and all that so was looking forward to what this place would offer, so much so that we were down first. Some might say keen, greedy is probably closer to the mark… It was a three courser, home made scones fresh out of the oven with butter and marmalade, warm, sweet and crumbly, half a grapefruit each and then I went for the smoked salmon and scrambled egg and The Boy opted for the full Scottish. The highlight of which was a really delicious roast tomato covered in pepper and garlic.
The smoked salmon and scrambled egg was as good as it looks, the eggs were unctuous and wobbly without being underdone and cosied up perfectly with the smokey sweet soft salmon. After that we were all set up for a long walk and the drive home.
Monachyle Mhor is well worth a visit, our Itison deal meant we got the room for £90 but it’s the food you’re really there for and pay for. Dinner was £55 each for 3 courses, we also had a bottle of wine and several drinks and I’d say it was really worth the money. Chef Tom Lewis is doing an amazing job doing local food treated with the utmost care and respect, this is a boutique hotel showcasing the best of Scotland both in location food.
8 Hallion points out of 10 for this.
The boy and I celebrated a year of knowing each other at the weekend and decided to do it in style at Porter and Rye, the newest and meatiest eatery to hit the Finnieston Strip.
Decor wise it’s got the same classy feel and excellent use of space as Crabshakk, with a bar, a few tables and those fridges full of a couple of coos worth of raw meat downstairs. Upstairs, where we were seated, are more tables, all quite close together but organised well enough that it didn’t matter. The decor is tasteful with muted colours, lots of wood, a comfortable feel and a couple of really interesting features like the fridges and the giant cow mosaic on the wall. My only slight problem with the decor was that our table was slightly too small for all the food we tried to put on it when the main course arrived!
Both of the waitresses we had were super attentive with excellent chat, when we told them it was our anniversary we were presented with a couple of glasses of prosecco. Class. We also drank a vat of incredibly tasty red wine and a hendricks gin which was just an extra slice of cucumber away from perfection.
Then came the food. Woah.
We both went for the scallops first. At £14.95 it was the most I’ve ever paid for a starter, usually The Boy and I would get 2 different dishes and share but we were both so keen on the sound of this we knew we wouldn’t want to share. It was one of the best scallop dishes I’ve ever tasted, the scallops were sweet, plump and perfectly cooked, just the right side of translucent and were perfectly complimented by the citrus beetroot tartare. Actually, my mouth’s watering just thinking about it now. YUM.
Then it was time for the main event. Our waitress brought over a couple of chalk boards, one with the steak prices for the day on it and the other with the specials. A quick note here is that this place is not for those who aren’t keen on red meat, all the main courses are different cuts of steak guaranteed to bump your iron levels right up. The cote du boef special was recommended to us and we opted for the 17 oz size. When it arrived it was perfectly cooked, medium rare, juicy and tender and pink, the size of my head and carved beautifully off the bone into little slices of heaven. We plumped for three side orders, truffle salt fries (savoury and crisp), winter roasted root vegetables (buttery and rich) and charred beetroot (very well cooked earthy mouthfuls of joy) and went for smoked garlic and pink peppercorn butter and the house sauce (one of the best diane sauces I’ve had) to slather the steak in. I don’t eat a massive amount of red meat generally so this felt like a real treat. And it was tremendous. The Boy ate so much meat he started sweating. And I wish you’d seen the excitement on his face when they brought a block of steak knives to choose from. Obviously he chose the biggest one…
Despite the meat sweats we decided there was room for pudding, different stomach and all that, The Boy opted for the slightly lighter option of blackberry parfait which came with honeycomb and apple sponge and I actually preferred it to the dark chocolate mousse I’d ordered which was lacking a little bit of depth.
We rounded off the evening with a couple of coffees and finished our wine before rolling home, stuffed to the gunnels.
Look, this was expensive, the most I’ve paid for a meal out in Glasgow in a long time; for 3 courses plus coffee, a couple of glasses of wine, a gin and tonic each and service it came to about £180. But for a special occasion like an anniversary I’d say it’s worth splashing out on. They’ve nailed the concept, this is high end beef done very well but in relaxed enough surroundings for everyone to feel comfortable. Dae it.
I woke up yesterday looking like a thumb with a wig on and feeling like a monkey with a miniature cymbal had taken up residency inside my head thanks to a hefty night out at Celtic Connections. Eggs were the only answer. I’m lucky enough to live round the corner from Cottonrake bakery (though I’m not sure my waistline would call it lucky) and their sourdough is a regular weekend staple in our house, they often do really good flavoured sourdoughs and on offer today was a sun dried tomato and olive oil one. I toasted that under the grill, fried off half an onion and half a yellow pepper in some coconut oil, added a couple of eggs and served the whole lot with avocado and cherry tomatoes from Roots and Fruits on the side. Hangover gone.