Well, I’ve got to say I’ve enjoyed this challenge so much I’m going to have a weekend off and then start a new challenge which will be 5 days where I BBQ something amazing for my main meal each day. I’m not allowed to use any other form of cooking and it has to be healthy packed with nutrients and most importantly tasty.
So… today I really pushed the boat out. I was having a friend for dinner, he’s an ex and still my best friend and he’s had a few health scares lately, even though he’s carrying as much excess weight as a toe nail. But it just goes to show you, skinny people don’t have it all easy when it comes to being healthy and fit. Anyway he’s picking up on some of my healthy habits and trying them out for himself and loving many of them. I’d told him about my challenge and so he said he’d like to try something and start steaming as opposed to microwaving ready meals which was his usual practice. I didn’t need my arm twisting into inviting him for dinner, I LOVE feeding people.
I decided to do three courses in the steamer… I’ll describe the food and prep first and give steamer positions and timings at the end. This is how it went:
Course 1 – Whole Mackerel in Spicy Mediterranean Sauce
I took a mackerel and gutted it, chopped off its head and tail and it was good to fit in the steamer (I do have one with oval shaped compartments so it’s good for a smallish whole fish). Read about mackerel here
Into a bowl I put half a small tin of chopped tomatoes, four peeled shallots cut in half, two cloves of garlic sliced roughly, a sliced and seeded Kenyan green pepper, a half teaspoon of paprika, a half teaspoon of turmeric, a dash of salt and black pepper, half a finely chopped (into cubes) small courgette (zucchini) and remember the left over aubergine (egg plant) from yesterday? I popped that in too, chopped into tiny cubes, a handful of chick peas, a handful of rough chopped coriander, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
I let the fish swim in it for a couple of hours in the fridge and when it came to cooking it I laid the fish on parchment and spooned on the sauce using a slotted spoon to get rid of some of the juice as it’s not needed. I covered it up just like I did the other day for the sea bass (en papilotte stylie).
Course 2 – Greek Lamb Kebabs with Greek Salad
For the main course I took two tender lamb rump chops and cut them into small chunks then plopped them into the following marinade:
The other half of the small tin of chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper, fresh chopped thyme (Greek if you can get it which is slightly more fragrant) and crushed anise seeds, just a few and a half teaspoon of paprika and a pinch of cinnamon with a crushed garlic clove for good measure. Read about anise seeds here
I also took a handful of cherry tomatoes on the vine and dropped them into the marinade, some button mushrooms, small slices of yellow pepper and half shallots. I mixed it all around and let it sit to absorb the lovely flavours for a couple of hours.
When I was ready to cook I took some small wooden BBQ skewers and snapped them off a little to fit them into the steamer compartment, I used 4 in total. I threaded the meat and onion, mushrooms, pepper and onion onto the skewers and set aside until I needed to put them into the steamer.
While everything was cooking I made a Greek salad:
- thinly sliced rings of red onion
- thinly chopped Kos lettuce
- chunky half slices of cucumber
- chunky slices of tomato
- a few black olives (I don’t like them but my friend does and they are good for you Olive Info)
- tiny cubes of feta cheese (I used 25g in total so they were tiny)
I made a dressing of red wine vinegar, a tiny splash of olive oil, crushed oregano, lemon juice, salt and pepper and tossed the salad in it. Oregano nutritional info here
As a side dish which I left on the table throughout the first and second courses I prepared the following:
I took 2 large wholemeal pitta breads and wrapped them in parchment after cutting them into six wedges each
I made a tzatziki which is quite simple to do, grate half a cucumber, crush 4 cloves of garlic, add salt and pepper and mix it all into a small tub of Greek yoghurt with a tiny splash of extra virgin olive oil. Leave it to keep nice and cool in the fridge. The Greeks say that tzatziki if made properly shouldn’t move from the plate if you hold it upside down, so it’s meant to be nice and thick. Use a good fat free greek yoghurt and squeeze the excess water out of the cucumber using kitchen paper and you should find it works quite easily. Never underestimate the health benefits of cucumber, click here for info
If you’re keeping an eye on fat content here I’ve used a tiny bit of feta and two splashes of extra virgin oil, about a teaspoon in total for 2 people. Of course the fish contains natural fatty oils too but it’s pretty low, low fat for two courses of deliciousness with a side dish.
Course 3 – Steamed pears with dried fruits and honey
I took two fat juicy dessert pears sliced off the top around where they start to fill out and scooped out some of the centre. Not a lot, just enough to fill with something else and get rid of the seeds and that pithy bit in the middle. I made sure the pears would stand still by just trimming a slither from the bottoms to keep them nice and sturdy. Eat pears – nutritional info here
Into the void in the pears I pushed a little mix I had put together of a few juicy sultanas, a couple of dried cranberries and a drizzle of honey. I popped the tops back on and I brushed the pears with some freshly squeezed lemon juice as it’s supposed to help them keep a nice colour… it did appear to do that.
I set them onto a piece of parchment in the steamer compartment which I folded the edges up of to make a little parchment boat to catch juices.
I served these with a rather naughty ice cream… well it wasn’t so naughty it was a skinny cow ice cream bar which I shopped a couple of slithers off for each dessert and let just melt over the top…it was a taste of ice cream and sometimes a taste is all you need to feel like you are not being deprived.
So the order of play here was pretty straight forward. I steamed the fish on it’s own for 5 minutes then put the meat dish on the bottom and the fish on top and steamed for a further 7 minutes by which time the fish was cooked to perfection. While I prepared to serve the fish I popped the pittas in on top of the meat for a minute which was sufficient to warm the small pieces through. I placed the lamb back on the steamer for a further 13 minutes. This gave me time to eat my first course. When I removed the lamb I put the pears on for 8 minutes adding a splash of dessert wine to the paper tray I’d made. It finished steaming before I’d finished eating but that was fine, they kept nice and warm and were not too hot to eat.
Timings were perfect, the fish was delicious and I served it by cutting it in half along the back bone and serving us each a small fillet which I lay on a bed of mixed leaf salad (I grow this myself and this was my first batch… the easiest thing to grow EVER and tasted gorgeous) and a wedge of lemon.
The kebabs were served on the stick sprinkled with some finely chopped coriander and with the Greek Salad and this is where the pitta and Tzatsiki came into its own. We dabbled in it with the main course too but it was lovely to make sandwiches and dip in the Tzatsiki and the flavour from that marinade on the kebabs was to die for. I love Greece, well I love the med regional FULL STOP and anything that tastes of it I love.
The pears were served as I said earlier, as they were with the slithers of ice cream melting on them and the sauce from the boat they were in drizzled over the top. My friend added a pinch of demerara sugar to his which I kind of envied but managed to go without, if I had done the same it wouldn’t have been a big deal but not doing the same shows how strong I am becoming when it comes to making the right choice. I wanted to put a sprinkle of demerara into each pear but decided to go with the sweetness of the honey instead and resisted the urge.
Anyway, who needed a pinch of sugar after that feast? It was delicious. Everything. What a finale to my challenge and how lovely to have someone to share it with!
I feel like I have some new variations on old favourites now and they are quick and easy and healthy to cook. I’ve not really gone outside of my safe zone with the cooking, flavours and tastes are pretty much what I know I like but that’s the thing isn’t it, stick to what you like but mix it up a bit, prepare or serve it in different ways, build variety into your diet to keep you satisfied and stimulated.