Easy Blueberry Oat Pancakes

Oats + cottage cheese + eggs = pancake? I was very suspicious when I spotted this recipe in Red magazine yesterday. But it was Sunday morning and all that watching Rafa Nadal's sexy legs at the Australian Open was making me hungry.

I was surprised at how tasty these babies were, considering the modest list of ingredients. And since you blast the ingredients together in a food processor until they're totally smooth (except the blueberries) they didn't taste at all cottage cheesy or eggy, which I'd feared. You might make them and think that ain't a pancake – for one, they're not as fluffy as the traditional floury kind. But speaking as as a non-connoisseur of pancakes they tasted good and Sunday breakfast-y to me. Stupidly quick to make, a healthy balance of ingredients and very filling. WILL MAKE AGAIN A++.

Pancake

Easy Blueberry Oat Pancakes

from James Duigan's Clean & Lean Diet Cookbook, via Red magazine, March 2012.

Serves 1 very generously, or 2 with more restrain than I.

50g/1.75oz rolled oats
100g/3.5oz low fat cottage cheese
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
50g/1.75oz blueberries

  1. Blend all the ingredients except the blueberries in a small food processor until smooth
  2. Pour a ladleful into a heated non-stick pan, and cook for two minures each side (I just poured it in straight from the food processor bowl, then pressed in the blueberries, cooked for two minutes, then flipped over)
  3. Eat while observing epic feats of athleticism on the telly.
Pancakes

Screenshot from weightlossresources.co.uk.

The Great Crumpet Smackdown

The Great Crumpet Smackdown took place in a Weight Watchers meeting when I was about 13 years old. This was in the days before Points. Weight Watchers didn't let you eat just any old thing you fancied back then. It had to be on The List of Stuff You're Allowed To Eat.

One night after weigh-in we were sitting around in a circle airing our grievances and confessing our sins when a woman asked our lovely leader, "Why can't I have a crumpet?"

"Crumpets are not on the list."

"Why not? I read the nutritonal information on the packet. One crumpet is only 330 kilojoules (86 calories). That's less than a piece of bread. It doesn't make any sense!"

"They're not on the list!"

"We can have bread, bread rolls, pita bread, English muffins… but no crumpets. What's so wrong about a crumpet?"

"Because they're inevitably served dripping with butter! And/or honey!"

"But I don't HAVE butter or honey on my crumpet. I don't even have Weight Watchers Whipped Margarine! I have a plain, toasted crumpet with either banana or Vegemite."

"They're not on the list."

"WHY aren't they on the list?"

And on it went.

I remember being conflicted on the issue. Part of me thought, "Well hey, if it's not on the list, you know… we really should obey the list". But the teenager hitherto lacking a cause to rebel against was thinking, "Just let the woman eat her bloody crumpet!"

The incident was seared into my memory. One one of the first purchases I made as an independent householder was a packet of Golden Crumpets. I had them with butter AND honey and yes indeed, they were Golden Good. It was all downhill from there, as has been well documented on this blog.

I've wanted to bake my own crumpets since Clotilde of Chocolate and Zucchini blogged her Sourdough Crumpet recipe in January 2010. I bought some crumpet rings then promptly did nothing for 20 months. Then when Carla and I were coming up with our Five Fun Things for the podcast I decided it was time to give them a red hot go. Messing around with a sourdough starter was beyond my interest level so I went for a straightforward recipe from The Hairy Bikers (Edit: here's a video of them in crumpet action!). For those not in the know, The Hairy Bikers are two hairy blokes on the telly who ride around the countryside on motorbikes and cook things.

The crumpets were simple and satisfying to make. All that rising and waiting and rising and waiting was very soothing somehow. It was such a sweet feeling when I finally poured the batter into the crumpet rings and it went all bubbly like real live crumpets.

Crumpet

I ate the first one with doused with too much butter and eucalyptus honey as a two finger salute to the crumpet fascists of yesteryear. The rest were enjoyed more sensibly over the next few days. My favourite topping is a little butter and a scraping of Vegemite. Well worth the effort on a lazy Sunday if you like that sort of thing!

Crumpet3
P.S. I posted about my crumpetry on the Up & Running forum and the wonderful Yvonne replied: "I never considered that they could be made. I assumed God just dropped them out of the sky ready made, like babies." Snortle!

Crumpet4

Tomato soup, unitards and weight loss surgery

  • Unitard Good morning! Do you like Heinz Tomato Soup?
    It’s so comforting, like slippers in a tin! Lately I’ve been guzzling a tasty homemade version: Tomato, Chili and Basil soup from the Cook Yourself Thin cookbook (spawned from a Channel Four series a few years back – I didn’t catch the show but the recipes are ace).

    The soup is easy and zippy to make – sautee some onion and garlic, dump in a tin of tomatoes and some water, simmer, then blitz with a blob of creme fraiche to make it Heinz-like. Even better than the real thing, as Mr Bono might say. I added a tablespoon of vegetable stock powder, used less water to make it more tomato-ey and only had dried Italian herbs instead of fresh basil but it was tasty as heck. Check out the lovely Alyssa’s video tutorial!

  • I woke up laughing today after dreaming I was in an undercover car park filming my very first workout DVD. It was imaginatively entitled Shauna: Workout DVD. I was suddenly six feet tall with a bouncy ponytail and a lurid green unitard. The car park was carpeted in electric blue shag pile. There were a dozen barbells dotted around the place. I started in the back corner and the camera followed me as I skipped over to the first barbell. Skipped, like one would do across a sunny meadow. Then I hoisted the barbell above my head, placed it back down and pranced along to the next one. Repeat. Yeah, righto. Don’t think I’d have knocked 30 Day Shred off the bestseller lists with that one.
  • Yours Questions Answered is the theme of today’s new Two Fit Chicks and a Microphone episode, including one from a listener considering weight loss surgery. I’m often asked what I think about weight loss surgery, usually framed in a “do you think it’s the easy way out” way. In my opinion this is not a bloody competition. We’re all human beings just trying to find a way forward and I don’t believe one M.O. is more worthy than another. We chatted to Jennifer Joyner, author of Designated Fat Girl, about her own gastric bypass experience. She was amazingly candid and it sounded anything but easy. Check it out if you fancy »
  • Here’s to a good week, comrades!

Oat O’clock

Oats I’ve been on a mad quest to make a decent “instant” porridge/oatmeal. I eat my breakfast at work and since the weather turned gloomy, my taste buds have rejected the portable summer combo of yogurt/raw oats/fruit.

I wanted the cosy reassurance of a bowl of porridge – but I don’t have the option of slinking away on company time to make it in the office microwave.

Recently I tried a pot of “Instant Golden Syrup Flavour Porridge” from Marks & Spencer. You just add boiling water, stir, leave for a minute, stir again and eat.

Pros: Very handy because there’s a boiling water tap thingy close to my desk. Unlike the microwave, I didn’t have to disappear for ages to make it.

Cons: Alas, not that tasty. And there was a rather ropey ingredients list:

Oat Flakes (57%), Sugar, Dried Skimmed Milk, Dried Whey, Dried Glucose Syrup. Natural Flavouring: Golden Syrup.

I don’t mind a dod of sugar in my porridge but three different kinds was too much. Plus there’s the packaging waste and crazy cost – 99p per serve!

But I did like the “instant” boiling water method, so I’ve been attempting to rip it off. I usually eat jumbo old-fashioned oats, the kind that you lovingly stir on the stove, but they alone didn’t work well for the “instant” boiling water method. So I chucked in some quick cooking oats – not as refined as instant oats (see below) but they’re cut more finely so they kind of melt away into the hot water then thicken up.

For one hearty serve I’ve been using:

  • 30 grams “quick” oats
  • 10 or 20 grams old-fashioned oats
  • 10 grams skimmed milk powder

(The ingredients label just says “dried skimmed milk”. I’m not one of those people who can eat porridge made with just water.)

I pack the above in a little bowl with a lid and take to work. When ready to eat, you just:

  • Add some boiling water – I’ve not measured exactly, but basically enough water to cover the ingredients and it looks quite runny with the oats kind of floating about.
  • Stir and put the lid on right away
  • Leave for a minute to thicken up.
  • Stir it again (it’s nice and creamy now) and chuck on any toppings (I like fruit and/or blob of nut butter).
  • Eat quietly and discreetly in your vast open plan office.

I do realise that quick oats aren’t as nutritious as the old-fashioned kind (UPDATE: not necessarily so!), and skimmed milk powder sounds so daggy and 1970s but it’s the best way I’ve found to get a hot, filling breakfast at work without making a big deal out of eating breakfast at work.

UPDATE 2: Just realised I hadn’t really mentioned the taste! It wasn’t quite as good as porridge made on the stove, but was nice and creamy, not watery and gruelly like the instant packet I’d tried. I think it’s coz, as WHF says below, the oats dubbed “quick” are cut bigger than ones called “instant”.

UPDATE 3: Some people have asked why I don’t just make normal porridge at home instead of all this faffing around at work. Answer: I’m out of the house by 8AM and not hungry for breakfast until 9.30-10AM, so need a workplace solution.

By the way, if you’re confused as I am by all the kinds of oats, here’s a handy guide from World’s Healthiest Foods:

  • Oat groats – unflattened kernels that are good for using as a breakfast cereal or for stuffing
  • Steel-cut oats – featuring a dense and chewy texture, they are produced by running the grain through steel blades that thinly slices them.
  • Old-fashioned oats (a.k.a. rolled oats) – have a flatter shape that is the result of their being steamed and then rolled.
  • Quick-cooking oats – processed like old-fashioned oats, except they are cut finely before rolling
  • Instant oatmeal – produced by partially cooking the grains and then rolling them very thin. Oftentimes, sugar, salt and other ingredients are added to make the finished product. (a la your Quaker packets)
  • Oat bran – the outer layer of the grain that resides under the hull. While oat bran is found in rolled oats and steel-cut oats, it may also be purchased as a separate product that can be added to recipes or cooked to make a hot cereal.
  • Oat flour – used in baking, it is oftentimes combined with wheat or other gluten-containing flours when making leavened bread.

So what’s your favourite winter breakfast? All this oat talk makes me fancy porridge for dinner tonight.

The Virgin Soufflés

In the last podcast I mentioned I'd been emulating George Costanza and doing The Opposite. In one of my favourite Seinfeld episodes George decided his instincts were crap and decided to say and do the opposite of what he would usually do. It has been a sometimes fun sometimes awful experiment!

One thing I tried was a life coaching session. Life coaching is something I was always cynical and dismissive about but it proved mind-bogglingly helpful. I've been dealing with Deep Stuff these past couple of months so a more practical session felt great.

I was given a wee bit of homework to, "do something that I've wanted to do for a long time but never made the time to do". Of course I had a handy list of full of such things, and decided on lucky 13… Make A Soufflé.

Yeah baby! This would be ultimate metaphor… the rising soufflé! The edible phoenix rising from the ashes!

I settled on this Easy Chocolate Soufflé, as easy and chocolate are two of my favourite words. It was also less OTT than most recipes at 222 calories per serve.  I thought that sounded reasonable for a sweet treat and should prevent too many people sending cranky emails that I was ruining their life with my chocolate talk.

So I separated the eggs and made the base then whisked the whites like a mofo. It was so bloody simple and enjoyable and as always with these little things you put off, I thought… Why did I pissfart around for so long?

Now this is what it was supposed to look like:

Good-souffle
(image used with permission)

And here's what mine looked like:

Souffle-flop

A flat and lifeless FLOP. Two little farts in two little dishes! Let's not go down the metaphor road with these specimens.

Och well. At least they were tasty and I enjoyed the process. I'll attempt again in the future but there is no "OMG must analyse why I FAILED and spend three weeks researching perfect souffle techniques" sense of urgency.

Hmm… I have no deep and meaningful end to this entry for you as it's two weeks since I started writing it and the train of thought has chuffed off into the distance. Basically I'm having fun doing The Opposite and mucking along with life. Any soufflé cooks out there? Any favourite soufflé recipes?

EASY CHOCOLATE SOUFFLÉ

Serves: 4
Source: RealEpicurean

100g/3.5 oz good quality dark chocolate
50g/1.75 oz golden caster sugar
4 egg whites
2 egg yolks
10g/0.3 oz butter

  1. Pre-heat oven to 150°C (300°F)
  2. Rub the inside of four ramekins with butter. Set aside.
  3. Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of heating water.  This will allow chocolate to melt without burning; stir it to help the process along.
  4. Whisk the egg whites in a bowl. Start off slowly, speeding up once the eggs start to thicken. Now slowly pour in the sugar while continuing to whisk. Stop once the eggs form a glossy, thick mix which forms fairly stiff peaks.
  5. By this time your chocolate should be melted. Take off the heat and mix in the egg yolks, then stir in one spoon of your egg white mix.
  6. Add the chocolate mix into the remaining egg whites. Slowly fold until combined, being careful not to knock out too much air.
  7. Spoon into the ramekins and smooth the edges with your thumb (this helps them rise evenly).
  8. Put the ramekins in the oven for 25 minutes.  Don’t open while they’re cooking or they’ll collapse.

Per souffle: 222.8 calories. Click here to see the nutrition facts.   Souffle-stats

Pretty Darn Healthy Homemade Granola

Granola-05

O granola, how I love thee! Such sweet, oaty, crack-like goodness, cunningly marketed as a health food.

I've wanted to make my own for years but was put off by the oil and sugar found in most recipes. I don't mind a bit of oil or sugar but The Mothership raised me to believe those things have no place on the everyday breakfast table. Coco Pops were more evil than Stalin in our household.

I've obediently stuck to unsweetened muesli or porridge as an adult, but I'm haunted by the memory of a Marks & Spencer number called Seriously Nutty Crunch. I bought it just the once in 2003 when I first moved to Scotland and finally understood folks who ate cereal straight from the box. Phwoar. Nutritionally speaking it was basically crushed up cookies, but ever since I've longed for CRUNCH in the morning.

Last year I bookmarked Orangette's acclaimed adaptation of a Nigella Lawson recipe, but it had quite a bit of honey and brown rice syrup so I knew I'd go Seriously Nutty if I made it. I also found a few apple juice-sweetened recipes but they still contained a fair whack of oil or butter.

Then recently in one of those random blog excursions, I was staring at a photo of a cupcake then clicked a link then another then another and landed on a blog called Delicious By Nature where there was a granola with no oil, just one tablespoon of maple syrup and a blasted-up banana as the main sweetener.

It sounded too weird to possibly work, but work it did! It was proper crunchy like the Seriously Nutty stuff, but with a mild sweetness that falls into my personal definition of a genuinely healthy breakfast. No bullshit calories here. I was worried it would taste too banana-y but the flavour is subtle.

You could go as poncy as you like with the ingredients but the basic version contains ordinary things I already had in the cupboard: oats, seeds and/or nuts of your choice (I used sunflower and walnuts), cinnamon, vanilla extract, maple syrup (I subbed honey), a pinch of salt (optional) and a trusty banana!

Granola-01

All you do is whizz the 'nana into oblivion along with some water, the cinnamon and the dod of honey, resulting in an unsightly brown goo.

Granola-02 

Stir that into the dry ingredients, spread it out on a baking tray then bake for about 40 minutes, stirring regularly.

The original recipe said put it on a foil lined tray which gave me soggy granola welded to foil.

Granola-04

I hacked it off into a non-stick roasting tin then fluffed it up, returned it to the oven and it turned out beautifully.

BANANA GRANOLA

Serves: about 6
Source: Delicious By Nature

200g (2 cups) rolled oats
(I used jumbo oats. You might need more if your banana is huuuuge and the mixture looks too wet)
1 ripe or frozen banana
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp sea salt
30g (1/4 cup) walnuts, chopped
30g (1/4 cup) sunflower seeds

  1. Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F.
  2. In a blender or wee food processor, zap together the banana, water, maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla, and sea salt until smooth.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the banana goo with the dry ingredients.
  4. Lay out the mixture in a single layer on a baking tray, either non-stick or lined with baking paper.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes until oats are starting to brown. Check every ten minutes and give it a good stir, breaking up any big clumps. Don't panic if it looks really soggy to start with, it does crisp up eventually!
  6. Remove from the oven or let cool inside the switched-off oven if your oven is rubbish like mine.
  7. Crunch away with milk or yogurt n fruit. Huzzah!

I don't know how long this would last, considering it contains a fresh banana and all. This batch lasted less than a day in our house as Dr G was particularly enthusiastic. I can't wait to try again with different nuts or seeds. Maybe a shake of nutmeg too. You could add dried fruit of course but I like my granola fairly plain. I reckon pecans would be brilliant but they can be pricey… walnuts are a good value nut.

Granola-05

(I don't eat breakfast on the grass; it's just impossible to get decent natural light inside our house of an afternoon now that summer is dead and gone. Sniff sniff.)

UPDATE:
For those who were asking about the calorie content, Banana-granolaclick here. This is based on 6 servings. Personally I would get 8+ servings out of it, but a lot got stuck on the foil! It also depends on the way you use granola. You'd get less serves if you like a bowlful with milk, but I use it more as a condiment on top of my fruit and yogurt, so it goes further.

Recipe Corner: Instant Frozen Yogurt!

Instant raspberry frozen yogurt I was briefly trapped in the greenhouse on Saturday. I always forget that the sliding door has no handle on the inside, so if you close it all the way it's a real bitch to open again. I fruitlessly tried to drag it with my fingers, then with the spout of the watering can.

The greenhouse thermometer read 39°C. How did I last 25 Australian summers? I'm totally wilting, man. And home alone too, so there's no point yelling for help. What a stupid place to die! Surrounded by ants and weeds and tiny green tomatoes!

Finally I found freedom by using a tomato stake for leverage.

After all that heat and minor panic I thought, I could totally go an ice cream. We'd flop on the grass together and enjoy the fact that it was 20 degrees cooler than inside that glass box! But alas, there was no ice cream. There's never bloody ice cream. So I watched the Tour de France instead.

That evening I was still thinking about ice cream… when suddenly! I remembered we had ye olde frozen raspberries. This in turn reminded me of a recipe Rasp-recipes chopped out of delicious. magazine a few months ago for… Instant Frozen Yogurt.

There's three ingredients:

1. Natural yogurt (I used Total Greek Yogurt. See note below)

2. Frozen berries

3. Icing sugar (USA = powdered sugar)

Method: Just zap and eat!

It was easy and delicious – all the goodness of ice cream without churning or custards or ice cream machines. And dead healthy, because you only need a slight dod of sugar. One spoonful of frozen yogurt and you'll be thinking of how you'll do it next time. With honey or agave nectar instead of sugar. With alternative frozen goods… blackberries or strawberries or banana or mango or pineapple or peas or fish fingers?

Note: The original recipe simply says "natural yogurt" but I find Greek gives the best results. If you can't find Greek yogurt or if it's expensive in your area, here's how to make your own thick, greek-style yogurt from normal plain yogurt! It works a treat.

Here it is broken down microscopically with photos, Pioneer Woman stylee.

First, the ingredients lounging in the back yard. The light was shoddy inside. This photo doubles as a personal reminder: MOW THE GRASS.

Ingredients: frozen raspberries, greek yogurt   and icing sugar

Frozen raspberries, icing sugar and Total Greek yogurt. Yes that's full fat yogurt. Everybody stay calm! Normally I use 2% but the local supermarket has not stocked it lately. I can't find a single source of 2% in the West Fife area. But if YOU have spotted it… please dial 999 immediately!

Or alternatively post a comment. In the meantime I'll keep carting tubs of 2% back over the bridge whenever I go to Edinburgh.

Now here's the goodies in the food processor. It's 1:1 ratio of fruit and yogurt. The original recipe used 500g of each to serve 6. For two generous serves, I used 150g yogurt, 150g raspberries and a tablespoon of icing sugar.

Raspberries ready to rock

Zap zap. It did not look promising at first. The yogurt would not move and the raspberries looked like the gravelly bits at the bottom of a bag of dog food.

Rasp-halfway

Zap zap again. The machine grunted in protest. It's never been the same since the DIY almond butter. I dumped out half so it had more room to move. You can see it starting to blend.

Halfway there

Zap zap. Just like the almond butter there's a lovely moment when it suddenly pulls together and you're done. Party party!

It was whipped and glossy, like soft gelato. You'll like the texture if you're one of those kids who used to churn your vanilla ice cream in the bowl to a soft-serve consistency.

The original recipe suggests you serve it with almond biscotti but I just I chucked on some fresh raspberries. It was a little tart but in a good way – it tasted of proper fruit. It was deliciously creamy too but would be just as good with the 2% yogurt – and easier to blend since it's less thick. It would probably be fine with 0% if you want to be saintly.

If you like a firmer texture, I found a similar raspberry gelato recipe from Jules of Stonesoup where she freezes the mixture for a few hours. She used cream but reckoned yogurt would be fine too.

This recipe was a revelation for this reformed ice cream addict. Healthy, easy and minimal sugar. A definite keeper.

Instant raspberry frozen yogurt

Reassurance Soup

I had a good nose though Jamie Oliver’s latest cookbook in the supermarket last night and really liked the look of his Spring Vegetable and Bean Soup. So I took a shifty photo of the recipe with my phone.

I was riddled with guilt by the time we got to the dairy aisle because that’s a terrible copyright infringement and I really should have bought the book, because even taking into account the generally rubbish royalties for supermarket sales, my pennies could have contributed to Poppy Nectarine and Lulu Cherry’s school fees. I can’t remember the proper names of his kids but they’re edible ones.

Anyway Jamie old chap – if you somehow see this and think I’m a thieving git, I promise I will order your book come pay day. I do like your recipes. And I hope you do more TV shows like Jamie At Home, where it’s just you and lots of really great, simple food. I admire your crusades but I miss the cookin’.

SoupI am not even going to try and hide behind jokes today. Everything seems to be going a bit shit all at once. I am concentrating on doing little things that make me feel good and sturdy and capable. Fish suppers and Wispa bars are not longterm solutions.

So this arvo I did a weights DVD for the first time in a month. I untangled the mess of clothes and shoes in the bottom of the wardrobe. I purchased a truckload of birthday cards because everyone I bloody know seems to be born in the last week of October.

And then I made Jamie’s soup. Well sort of, because I only managed to photograph three quarters of the page. That will learn me for being a copyright bandit. The soup is dead wholesome and simple, and nestled in a plastic container for my lunch tomorrow it looks like Reassurance in a Box. Yum yum.

REASSURANCE SOUP

Source: Boldly pilfered from JO’s Ministry of Food

3 carrots
3 sticks of celery
2 onions
2 cloves of garlic
olive oil
400g (14oz) tin of cannellini beans
200g (7oz) cauliflower
200g broccoli
200g spinach (I used baby spinach leaves)
2 large ripe tomatoes (I used two handfuls of cherry toms)
salt and pepper
cayenne pepper (I added this. Because it makes you feel alive!)
1.8 litres hot chicken or vegetable stock
(JO uses 2 stock cubes; I used Marigold vegetable stock powder)

  1. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a big pot over medium heat.
  2. Chop up the celery, carrots, onions and garlic.
  3. Chuck the above veggies in the pot. Cook for around 12 minutes until the carrots have softened but still holding their shape.
  4. Meanwhile drain the cannellini beans. Break up the cauli and broccoli into small florets. Quarter the tomatoes.
  5. Add those veggies to the pan along with the hot stock. Stir together.
  6. This is where I added a few good shakes of cayenne pepper.
  7. Bring to the boil the simmer for 10 minutes until the veggies are tender. This was more like 20 on my crappy stove.
  8. When ready to serve, add the spinach to the pot and cook a further 30 seconds. Remove from heat.
  9. Season with S&P.

JO says you can blend half the soup if you like it less chunky, but that would mean more washing up! He also suggests drizzling it with some extra virgin olive oil, which I’d never tried before but it was bloody delicious. This is the second JO soup I’ve made this month and they both had spinach chucked in at the end – that iron-y flavour is dead tasty.

Recipe Corner: Healthier Eton Mess

Strawberries! Quiiiick! Get 'em while you can! Get 'em while they're cheap! Get 'em while they're Scottish!

This is my August shopping mantra. For soon it shall be autumnal and dull and appleish, unless you want strawberries flown in from Guatemala at 70 pence per berry. So right now I'm shoving them into smoothies and salads and cereal and clinging onto summer even though it's pishing doon with rain outside.

My favourite ode to strawberries is Eton Mess. From the Wikipedia:

"Eton mess is a dessert of English origin consisting of a mixture of strawberries, pieces of meringue and cream, which is traditionally served at Eton College's annual prize-giving celebration picnic on the 'Fourth of June' … One anecdotal story is that the dessert was invented when a Labrador accidentally sat on a picnic basket in the back of a car on the way to a picnic."

Eton mess is basically a mangled pavlova, but with much less faffing. You take just three ingredients – strawberries, meringue and cream – and mix them all together to create a sweet, summery, chewy, delicious… mess. It's also relatively healthy on the dessert spectrum if you make a few tweaks.

1. The strawberries
A couple of handfuls per person. Slice half of them into large chunks and finely chop the others. This way you get nice bitey bits and plenty of smushy juices to seep into the other ingredients.

2. The creamy stuff
I use 2% Total Greek yogurt – a cupful per person. It's just as thick as the traditional whipped cream but obviously a helluva lot better for you. The slight tartness balances the mighty sweetness of the meringues. Many recipes add some sugar to the cream at this point, but you don't need it.

Fage_2

3. The meringues
Meringues are handy buggers to know if you want to make a lower calorie pud. And they're allegedly easy to make yourself – just egg whites and sugar, right? Ho ho ho. My last attempt looked and felt like "a plastic dog turd from a joke shop" so I buy them from the supermarket.

(Aside to Edinburghites: you could totally ponce this up with meringues from Valvona and Crolla – £2 each but they're HUGE and crisp on the outside and gooey in the guts! Rhi found 'em on her last visit. Hubba hubba.)

Here I used some mini ones from ASDA that were only 15 calories each. I used three per serve. Crumble them into a bowl with the strawberries. Plop on then Greek yogurt, then fold it all together.

Chopped

Spoon your Messes into a glass and take a photograph. Be sure to focus on the toaster in the background, so the Mess looks even more messy and indistinct.

Now tuck in a spoon while shouting, "Hurrah!" or "Top banana, old chap" or some other jolly crap that you might imagine blokes at Eton would say.

Mess

Here is a handy link to Google Image Search for more attractive Eaton Messes. Or you can check out Delia Smith's "About as Messy as a bouffant coated in seventeen tins of Elnet hairspray Eton Mess".

Eton Mess also works well with raspberries and other easily pulverised fruits. This tasty version has just 170 caloriesMesscals per serve. And only 340 calories if you accidentally eat two.

Recipe Corner: Spinach & Feta Frittata

Depending which definition you choose, you could call this recipe a frittata, a tortilla or a Spanish omelette. After my mathematical debacle in the last entry I'm unwilling to commit to an answer. Hehehe.

In this household it has been known variously as:

  • There's A Vegetarian At My Table WTF Should I Do
  • I'm Too Lazy To Cook But Realistically This Is Quicker Than Getting A Takeaway
  • Refrigerator Graveyard In A Pan

Reason for today's culinary diversion: I found this Leftover Recipe Competition on Weight Loss Resources. I raided the fridge for the most shriveled ingredients and got all geeked up to enter. But then realised that might be a bit dodgy, since they kindly pimped the heck out of my book. So I thought I'd share it here instead.

Like everything I cook this is stupidly easy and awfully vague. It's one many reasons my food blog venture failed a few years back – I felt silly adding half-arsed primary school recipes to the blogosphere while other folks did precision flambéed goat trotters and Peruvian gooseberry parfaits.

Step 1 – Take some Spuds of Yesteryear
… that is, some leftover cooked potatoes, or the skanky raw potatoes lurking in your cupboard with seventeen eyes each. I had about 500 grams/1lb of new potatoes, so I removed the eyes, sliced em up then microwaved until juuuust tender.

If you're a member of the Potatoes Are Evil OOGA BOOGA camp, chunks of other firm veggies work well, like sweet potato or butternut squash.

Spuds

Step 2 – Get yer non-starchy veggies ready
First, something oniony – leeks, spring onions or even… ONIONS. In this case half an onion leftover from pita pizzas the night before.

Second, something colourful and worthy. Asparagus or artichoke hearts are dead tasty, but here we have two handfuls of near-death English spinach. Most of it had turned to pulp in the bottom of the Tupperware container but these leaves were salvagable.

Spinach

Step 3 – Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a nice round pan with a handle (ETA: I have the hotplate on the highest heat, but our stove is utterly rubbish. If you've got a decent one I'd probably go with a medium heat so you don't burn the eggs later on).

Sauté your onion, then add the tatties. Gently stir now and then so they get a nice golden colour but don't break up. This takes at least ten minutes on my shithouse stovetop but I hope you get a swifter response!

Stir

Step 4 – Meanwhile crack some eggs into a bowl. I used half a dozen – the amount of eggs of course depends on how many veggies you've got, how many mouths you're feeding, and/or how many eggs are left in the carton. Season with some dried chili flakes and black pepper then whisk to combine. You don't need any salt.

Step 5 – Once the spuds are done, add the spinach then carefully stir until it wilts. Again, you don't want to bust your spuds.

Step 6 – Make sure the veggie mixture is spaced out evenly over the pan, then pour over the egg mixture. Kinda smooth and poke at the whole thing with wooden spoon to make sure the egg gets between the gaps and you get a relatively even surface.

Let it cook for awhile you get preheat your grill. Is that a broiler to Americans? It's that thing with the heat that you slide things beneath in order to get them nice and toasty.

Pour

Step 7 – Once it's started to cook around the edges, I plop on about 150 grams/5oz feta cheese or similar strong and crumbly cheese. I used Wensleydale once and it was nae bad. You could be virtuous and skip the cheese altogether but… BORRRRRRING!

Feta

Step 8 – I don't know exactly how long you cook this on the stove before you whack it under the grill. Usually its about five minutes, til the edges are looking cooked and it doesn't move much when you shoogle the pan, but there's still eggy liquid around.

Anyway, whop it under the grill for about five minutes until the eggy bits look puffy and the feta looks lovely and golden.

Thingy Step 9 – Let it rest for at least ten minutes, otherwise it's too hot for you to truly appreciate the full flavour of the tasty, tasty feta.

Actually don't let it rest too long or you'll start picking off chunks of tasty, tasty feta and then you'll have to shame-facedly serve up it up to your friends with big feta dents in it.

Nice with a wee salad – here we have mixed leaves, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper and strawberries.

Also very tasty eaten cold the next day, but a little dull if you've picked off all the cheese!

For the nerds: Serves 4. 338 calories per serve. nerdy nutritional info Click for details!