So the first thing I need to say is that I am so sorry I haven’t written anything in a while. I have had a crazy time with the day job. A little while back I was sent some Quark by the lovely people over at The Graham’s family dairy. They are based in Stirlingshire and have been farming there for three generations now. It is a new product for this family run Scottish farm, whose products you will no doubt have seen in your local supermarket. Quark is something you might not have used before. It is basically like a soft cheese and can come in a variety of consistencies in different countries or from different makers. The Graham’s version has the consistency of a thick yogurt. Theirs also has the bonus of being naturally virtually fat free (0.1g of fat per 100g in their Natural Quark) and high in protein (12.g per 100g). They were generous enough to give me two tubs of their “natural” unflavoured version and two tubs of their vanilla version.
I decided to try making a few recipes with the goodies but firstly I wanted to try the vanilla quark as a yogurt substitute in my standard work day breakfast (see my Quinoa berry breakfast entry for the recipe http://wp.me/p6FVAd-iH ) of chocolaty quinoa, and fresh berries. Unfortunately for the review it was so nice that I ate both tubs over the next few days in my breakfast. My one complaint being I wish I had more of it. It was rich, thick, creamy with a nice sweet vanilla taste. It had only slightly more calories than my normal low fat yogurt but tasted so much more naughty! So… I didn’t manage to come up with any more pudding recipes for you. Although I imagine it to be incredibly versatile as a replacement for cream cheese, cream or yogurt. I did go to the supermarket to get some more (the website lists Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s as stockists) but my local supermarket is a smaller Sainsbury’s (it is loads bigger than a “local” but smaller than your usual store) and doesn’t stock either version and larger stores are a bit of a drive away. But I will be sure to get some more as soon as I do find some, as it would definitely replace my yogurt and I do want to have a go at making some other things with it.
So I was left with making some things with the standard natural version. I decided to adapt two of my staple dishes and make them totally fat free to see what they were like. Chicken and asparagus risotto and another chicken dish, a thai style chicken curry.
Fat Free Chicken and Asparagus Risotto
When I normally make risotto there is quite a bit of fat in it, so this was a challenge to make with no oil at the start or butter and cream at the end.
Prep: 10mins Cook: 30mins
2 Chicken breasts
6 cloves garlic
1 lemon halved
1 large onion roughly chopped
3 celery sticks chopped
6 asparagus sprigs (Woody ends removed)
75ml white wine
1/2 pint chicken or vegetable stock
130g arborio rice (can use any risotto rice)
salt to taste
large tablespoon of natural quark
For my usual chicken risotto recipe, I fry off the chicken with some lemon oil but this is the low fat version as the chicken was done en papillote, which is basically “cook in a bag”. You can either do this with cooking parchment (traditional) or like I did with foil.
- Place each chicken breast on a square of foil or paper large enough to wrap it.
- Add a squeeze of lemon juice from one half of the lemon, a rich of salt and 2 cloves of garlic roughly chopped (You could put one clove in but I love garlic).
- Wrap with parcels and set to one side. Preheat the oven to 200°C (fan).
- Place the onion and celery and two crushed garlic cloves in a large shallow frying or risotto pan on a high heat and add a small amount of boiling water. Normally you would fry this off in oil and then add the risotto rice and continue to fry until they become translucent, this isn’t an option in the fat free version so was left out as a step.
- Continue to cook off until the onion has softened and then add the rice with a ladle full of stock (give the stock a little taste to ensure it isn’t too bland or salty as this gives most of the flavour, remember it will reduce and so get a bit saltier, you can always add more salt but it’s hard to take away). Turn down to a medium/low heat.
- Place the parcels in the oven for 15mins.
- Stir the stock in continuously and once it has reduced add further ladles. It is important that you take your time as it will affect the texture if you try to go too quickly with the stock.
- Wrap the asparagus in foil with a pinch of salt and when the timer goes off place in the oven with the chicken for a further 5 mins.
- Continue to add the stock until all has been absorbed. At the point the timer goes off the rice should have all the stock in and just about be cooked. Have a little taste, it should have just a little al dente bite to it. If it needs a little longer, but the flavour is right, add a little water instead of stock otherwise it will get saltier.
- Once the rice is cooked squeeze in the juice from the other lemon half and stir a large tablespoon full of natural quark.
- Serve in a bowl with a half the risotto topped with asparagus and then the chicken.
In summary this wasn’t quite as indulgent as a more fat filled risotto but it was certainly tasty and better for you and your family for a weekday dinner. It was creamy in spite of being fat free although there was a slight graininess to the sauce in comparison to using cream.
Healthy Thai-style Chicken Curry
Prep time: 10mins Cook time: 20mins
This one isn’t totally fat free as I use a teaspoon of chunky peanut butter but you can leave it out to make it that little bit lower fat. This is a recipe for 1, a sad, lonely, I-got-in-from-work-late dinner. But you can easily multiply up the portions for more people.
60g brown basmati
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 large onion sliced
1/2 pepper sliced (I use red to add colour)
1 chicken breast chopped into bitesized chunks
80g mushrooms sliced
Few sprigs coriander (I put in both the leaves and stems) roughly chopped
1tsp thai green curry paste (either bought or make your own)
3 sprigs of asparagus, I thinly slice this with a vegetable peeler, a trick from Jamie Oliver in one of his thai curry recipes.
Teaspoon chunky peanut butter
Tablespoon of quark
Salt to taste
You could use different veggies e.g substituting the asparagus for mange tout or adding spring onion. For a thai curry paste recipe, there are loads online but I tend to make batches using this one http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/chicken-recipes/thai-green-chicken-curry/#J2U5sT671ybfyQwS.97 or get a jar from the shop if I’m feeling particularly lazy.
- Cover the basmati rice in boiling water and add salt to taste and the juice of half a lime and simmer. Brown rice takes longer (about 20 mins) so I tend to put it on before I do any of the veggie prep.
- Place the onion and mushroom in a frying pan and soften by simmering with some boiling water instead of oil
- Add the chicken, the paste and the peanut butter and continue to simmer adding a little more water as the pan gets dry approx 5 mins
- Once the chicken has cooked add in the asparagus and pepper and simmer for a further 1-2 mins. You want the sauce to be reasonably thick and reduced, not too watery but you also don’t want to overcook the pepper and asparagus
- Add the quark and the coriander stir in and serve with the lime rice
Again not as indulgent as with oil and some coconut milk but much less fattening, the quark still had a little graininess to it but it was tasty and satisfying for a low fat dinner.
Would love to know what you all think of them and I will try some puddings once I get my hands on some more vanilla quark!
Foodie x x
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