Fast Diet recipe book, Short Books, 2013
The Fast Diet was all the rage in 2013 and I had quite a few friends who followed it. I noticed this book in a book shop and some of the recipes were very appealing. This was before I was a reformed compulsive cookbook buyer, and I bought it. I have made a few recipes and I have one firm favourite I regularly make. Is there more to this book?
It is nearly spring, but the weather is still wintry so the warming winter stew, p152 looked appealing, with a bonus of including Jerusalem artichokes. The suggested vegetables were 2 parsnips, peeled and quartered, four carrots, peeled and sliced, ½ a small butternut squash deseeded and roughly chopped and the3 Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and halved. I just used what I had on hand which was carrots, Jerusalem artichokes and a handful of waxy potatoes. For four, sauté a diced onion and a handful of sage leaves in a Dutch oven. Dust 400g diced beef with a little seasoned flour and add to the pan with the vegetables, 2 tbsp tomato paste, a bay leaf, 250 mls wine and 275 mls stock. Stir gently and season. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid, and cook in oven until the meat is tender and falls apart easily – about 3 hours. Garnish with lemon zest and a scatter of rosemary leaves. This was perfect for a cold winter evening.
There are some lovely soups including a beetroot and apple soup with horseradish p172, which I have made and enjoyed. But that was more suited to autumn, so I stepped right out of my comfort zone and made the fragrant pho, p157. Using a pestle and mortar, grind 2 lemongrass stems, finely chopped, 2 tsp grated ginger root and 4 kaffir lime leaves. Add to a large saucepan with 150 mls fish stock and boil for 10 minutes. Add 1 tsp palm sugar, 3 tbsp fish sauce and the juice of a lime. Cook the shelled de veined prawns in the broth till pink – about 2-3 minutes. I used 4 prawns per person. Add herbs – Vietnamese basil, mint and parsley, and red chilli to serve.
My favourite meal from this book is the Iraqi pomegranate stew, p99. I don’t know if this is in fact a traditional Iraqi meal, but I do know that it is delicious. And it uses pomegranate molasses which is my favourite condiment.
For two, sauté a diced onion in oil until softened. Add garlic, a cinnamon stick, 1 tsp ground cumin, ½ tsp fenugreek and a pinch of saffron and cook a further few minutes. Add 100g of yellow split peas and a litre of stock, chicken or vegetable. Simmer for 45 minutes or until just cooked, stirring occasionally to check the stew is loose. If it is sticking add more stock or water. I like my split peas well-cooked but beware because they are firm one minute and mush the next. It’s a fine balance. Add 100g brown basmati rice and cook a further 20-25 minutes, until the rice is cooked. Stir through a large handful of chopped chard. The recipe says spinach, but as you know I always have chard in my garden, so I always use that. Add a couple of sliced spring onions, 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses. Season and serve with mint and parsley, coriander if you eat it and a handful of pomegranate seeds. This meal has become a winter staple in our house.
I have a lot of fish stew recipes and this white fish stew with orange and fennel, p122, is a winner. They gave a recipe for fish stock, but I bought a good fish stock, and it was more than satisfactory.
For four, heat olive oil in a large pan and gently fry a thinly sliced onion, with 1 tsp coriander seeds for about 15 minutes, until tender. Add 250 ml fish stock, the juice of an orange plus two slices of peel, a tin of tomatoes, and a tomato tin of cold water. Add 2 bay leaves, ½ tsp herbes de Provence, and a pinch of saffron. Season and simmer 20-25 minutes. Add 750 g white fish fillet, roughly chopped and some shelled prawns. Of course, we don’t get fresh here, and I use frozen prawn cutlets with tails on. I use 4 per person. Cover and cook a further 4-6 minutes until the fish and prawns are just cooked. Serve scattered with fresh parsley and because this is an English book, I use English parsley which some of my family say is more flavourful than Italian. Don’t tell an Italian. I usually use Italian parsely, but often use English with fish. In Italy, when I bought fish, I was given a bunch of parsley, because obviously if I was cooking fish, I would need parsley.
We loved the pork tenderloin w fennel p136. For two, rub olive oil into a pork tenderloin, approximately 300g. Roll in 2 tsp crushed fennel seeds and salt and pepper. Sear in a hot pan for a minute or two each side. Remove the pork and add a quartered fennel bulb (or 8 wedges if on the large side) and put into a small baking tray, add the garlicky stock and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Place the pork fillet on top. Bake at 180 for 15-20 minutes. Cover the pork with foil if it looks like drying out. Rest the pork for five minutes and return the fennel to the oven to finish cooking and reduce the stock a little. Serve the sliced pork on a bed of fennel, drizzled with the pan juices and a lemon wedge. Roasted potatoes on the side are good.
Red lentil tikka masala, p86, was a perfect weeknight supper. I made the full quantity for four and froze what we didn’t eat. First make the masala paste. Blend 2 tsp garam masala, 2 tsp chilli flakes, 2 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp toasted cumin seeds, 1 tsp toasted coriander seeds, 2 cm grated ginger, 1 tbsp oil, 2 tbsp tomato passata and a tbsp tomato paste, in a food processor. For the curry heat a little oil in a large pan, add a diced red onion and cook until softened, around 3-4 minutes. Add a clove of crushed garlic and cook for a further minute. Add 2 tbsp of the masala paste and cook for a minute or two, then add a tin of chopped tomatoes and 250 mls stock and bring to the boil. Add 200g red lentils, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add a handful of chopped chard, and heat until they wilt down. I had a wee bit of cauliflower in the fridge so that was steamed and added with the chard. Add a little more hot stock if necessary, to loosen. Serve with a dollop of yoghurt and a warm roti.
The recipe for the paste probably made 4-5 tbsp, and the recipe for the curry suggested adding 2 tbsp of paste. I made all the paste intending to store the rest for another occasion. Then I had to go out for a couple of hours so Peter made the curry. He is usually a stickler for a recipe, so I was surprised to find there was none left in the bowl. It turned out he had put it all in with the lentils. I was a little worried, especially when I had read a comment by someone else that the dish was far too spicy even with half the quantity. We are obviously made of sterner stuff as we enjoyed both it.
Meatballs w cavalo nero, p 146 is another old favourite and a good way to use some of the garden cavalo nero, which is doing especially well this year. For two, mix 250g pork mince with ½ red onion, diced, a clove of garlic, crushed, a small carrot, grated, a pinch of oregano, an egg, a handful of breadcrumbs and salt and pepper. Shape the mix into small meatballs, you’ll get about twelve. Fry in a little oil until they are gently browned and set aside.
In the same pan, add a little more oil and fry ½ a red onion, diced, until softened. Add a clove of chopped garlic and cook briefly. Add a tin of chopped tomatoes, a tsp of tomato paste, a pinch of sugar and 200 mls water, plus chilli flakes and Worcestershire sauce to taste. Simmer until the sauce has reduced and is glossy. Add the meatballs and a tsp oregano, cover and simmer for another 20 minutes. Serve with steamed cavolo nero, dressed with a light squeeze of lemon and a scatter of flaked sea salt.
There are so many great recipes still to explore in this book. I think they are so flavourful because they are designed for people who are severely restricting their intake of food and are therefore very hungry. I sometimes increased the quantities a little and added potatoes but really these recipes are just delicious as they are. I like the fact that a lot of the recipes are for two, I suppose assuming that you are not inviting guests to diet with you. I would happily serve most of these recipes to guests and on a couple of occasions we did have a friend join us. I was thinking that this book may be moved on but it’s back on the shelf and still has a life in our kitchen.