Cookbook Review: The I (Italian) Diet, Gino D’Acampo (on Amazon here)

Cookbook Review: The I (Italian) Diet, Gino D’Acampo (on Amazon here)

The I Diet

The I Diet

So this is a diet book that claims to have “100 Healthy Italian Recipes to Help You Lose Weight & Love Food”. Now I already loved food at the time that I bought this book, and I’ve never actually used it to try and lose weight, so I can’t really comment on either of those claims. However I can confirm that there are plenty of healthy Italian recipes inside.

While I haven’t used this book to diet, I have used it on a fairly regular basis in the 4+ years that I have owned it. One dish in particular – the Little Shell Pasta with Peas Ham & Eggs has become my go-to store cupboard meal. This rather strange combination of ham, parmesan, chili, peas, eggs and pasta (chili and cheese!) is an absolute delight that I cook at least once a month. These days I can’t get the little shell pasta shapes so have to use coquillettes instead but that works fine.

The I Diet - Little Shell Pasta with Peas Ham & Eggs

The I Diet – Little Shell Pasta with Peas Ham & Eggs

Now admittedly that dish takes a bit of time to cook and the portion is a tad on the small side, even for a diet book, but the end result is well worth it. A delicious sticky, salty and spicy mix that will never look elegant or sophisticated but always goes down a treat.

So back to the book. There’s a breakfast section, lunch, soups and salads, starters, pastas and risottos, meats, fish and desserts with a couple of “naughty” recipes such as tiramisu and carbonara tucked away at the back.

The recipes are well written and easy to follow and so far I’ve not had a single failure cooking from this book. About 70% of the recipes are accompanied by beautiful photograph. While some dishes take a bit longer or are more involved, most have a fairly limited list of ingredients and can easily be prepared on a work night with no fuss.

As with most cookbooks I own, I’ve used the breakfast and dessert sections the least. However from the desserts I have given the chocolate and chestnut cake a go from (moist and not too sweet at all, this kept well for quite a few days).   On the breakfast front I’ve found that the baked eggs with ham works well as a light lunch or brunch option on weekends when I have a bit more time.

The I Diet - Baked Eggs with Ham in Tomaro & Garlic Sauce

The I Diet – Baked Eggs with Ham in Tomato & Garlic Sauce

While it was the lovely salads that drew me to this book (the Courgette Ribbons with Cannellini Beans with Lemon Dressing and the tuna Three Bean & Tuna Salad with Fresh Mint in particular), the recipes I seem to use the most are the chicken ones. The Rolled Breast of Chicken Stuffed with Mushrooms & Rosemary is a little fiddly to make (I have a lot of trouble getting my rolls to stay rolled, but that could just be me) but produces a tasty and juicy result that looks quite fancy.

The I Diet - Rolled Breast of Chicken Stuffed with Mushrooms & Rosemary

The I Diet – Rolled Breast of Chicken Stuffed with Mushrooms & Rosemary

Another star recipe for me is the extremely quick and easy Chicken with Lemon Butter Sauce. For a sauce that contains only 4 Ingredients this really packs a punch. It’s terrifically fresh and sharp. While chicken (or turkey) is obviously the healthiest option, the sauce also works really well with a nice bit of pork if you’re a bit less diet conscious.

The I Diet - Chicken with Lemon Butter Sauce

The I Diet – Chicken with Lemon Butter Sauce

Finally the Chicken Breast with Parmesan, Tomatoes & Mozzarella is particularly delightful and not something I would consider to be “diet” at all containing, as it does, not one but two cheeses!

The I Diet - Chicken Breast with Parmesan, Tomatoes & Mozzarella

The I Diet – Chicken Breast with Parmesan, Tomatoes & Mozzarella

If you want to use this to diet, rather than to dip into, there are plans consuming either 1500 or 2000 calories a day for those who want to use this book that way. In true Italian style each contains a daily calorie allowance for alcohol. There’s also some useful information on various ingredients such as the fat and calorie comparisons for various Italian cheeses (and of course various alcoholic option) which are worth bearing in mind when creating your own lighter options or just generally watching your weight.

 

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A few easy and tasty lunch options

My work office has a canteen which produces some very nice food, however to eat there every day quickly gets expensive.  Instead, by and large, I prefer to cook my own lunches and take them in (or use up leftovers from my evening meals J).

I usually try to cook options that have plenty of flavour so that they work well either hot or cold.  I also try to go for dishes that, provided I’ve kept them in the fridge, will still be okay towards the end of the week.  I don’t really diet, but do like to try and eat plenty of vegetables and keep things generally healthy at lunch so I can indulge in the evenings if I wish.

Finally I tend to stick to meals which are quick and easy to prepare with not too much washing up.  If I’m going to spend hours creating a dish I want to enjoy it hot and fresh at home on a plate rather than from tupperware in front of my screen at work!

Here are a few of the dishes I’ve cooked over the last month or so.

One of my favourite autumn/winter vegetables is pumpkin.  It’s extremely versatile and has a brilliant ability to take on strong flavours without being overpowered so I end up using it in a lot of different dishes.  A flavour that it pairs particularly well with is chilli and so I recently made some Chilli and Honey Roast Pumpkin and Red Onion Couscous.

Chili and Honey Roast Pumpkin and Red Onion Couscous

Chili and Honey Roast Pumpkin and Red Onion Couscous

This is a really simple dish to cook.  You just need to roast some pumpkin cubes and red onion wedges coated in dried chilli flakes and honey and then combine with some couscous, lemon juice and mint (and some raisins if you like them – I love them in couscous)

Another simple lunch flavoured with chilli’s is the very healthy and light Roasted Tomato Pasta.

Roasted Tomato Pasta

Roasted Tomato Pasta

This involves roasting some lovely cherry tomatoes in a little oil, garlic, paprika and chilli and then combining roast tomatoes with pasta. The juices from the roasted tomatoes make up the bulk of the sauce so it’s really healthy and if you’re being strict with your calorie intake then the amount of pasta can be reduced accordingly.  This is one of my favourite no fuss lunches and a great way to use up tomatoes that are a bit past their best.

A little more time and a tiny bit more effort goes into my Mustard Lentil Salad, but it’s still a really easy dish to whip up.

Mustard Lentil Salad

Mustard Lentil Salad

Boil the lentils, drain and set aside.  Then sauté carrots, onions and leeks before finally adding some hazelnut saucisson (or just hazelnuts if you’re vegetarian/vegan) and mixing with the lentils, some mustard and some good flavoured oil.  My personal favourite oil for this is pumpkin seed oil.  I love the deep green colour and I adore the flavour even more! I was introduced to it but some friends and now use it on nearly every salad I make.

Finally it’s back to pasta again for Fennel, Lemon and Mascarpone Pasta.

Fennel, lemon and marscapone pasta

Fennel, lemon and marscapone pasta

Another simple option, with this you just gently sauté the fennel with some thyme and garlic until it’s wonderfully soft and them combine it with the pasta and the mascarpone.  When I created  this I needed to use up some mascarpone, but crème fraiche or plain yoghurt would work just as well.

A New blog!

Welcome to my new blog!  Obviously things are a bit sparse here at the moment but I hope that it won’t be too long till there’s plenty of interesting content and resources for you to enjoy.  My intention is to share information and anecdotes on the food I have been and will be eating and cooking as well as some of my recipes, reviews of places I’ve eaten and of the cookbooks and products I have tried. A little bit of everything!

To get the ball rolling I’ve posted three restaurant reviews of some places I’ve visited since I relocated to the Geneva/France area and I’ll add more as and when I can.

So what have I been up to lately food wise?  Well in the past week of so I’ve been trying to use up some of the various items that had been in my fridge for a while.  As a result I made what is possible my favourite one pot supper Chorizo and Lemon Pilaf (using up some chorizo) and a very quick and light pasta dish of Courgette and bacon spaghetti (using up half a pot of crème fraiche that was lurking around). 

I also used two slightly overripe aubergines to make a delicious dip which I snacked on for a few days (I used this recipe from BBC Good Food minus the dill and with even more garlic) and my left over tinned tomatoes from the pilaf whipped up into a delicious salsa to go on nachos (to go with more of the crème fraiche from what seemed a never ending pot).

Finally, I was quite amazed to find hiding at the back of my fridge a packet of 36 month aged belotta ham that I had brought back with me from a trip to Madrid last October.  I had tried a few slices of this ham whilst eating a tapas dinner at the amazing Mercado de San Miguel Food market and loved it that much that I decided to treat myself (it was a bit pricy) and bring a pack home for a special occasion. 

Well a special occasion never arose and I forgot the pack was in the fridge and upon rediscovering it I decided that it had waited long enough and I was going to enjoy with no occasion at all.  It was just as sublimely delicious as I remembered and didn’t seem to have suffered from either the plane journey or from sitting in my fridge for 10 months (does it now count as being 46 months aged I wonder?).  The ham fat on the ham was soft and creamy and the perfect foil to the deeply salty rich meat.  I managed to make the pack last for three meals all in all, enjoying it with bread, manchego and membrillo.  A treat indeed.

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