Chop, zip, steam and serve. What could be easier? Nothing. These most excellent microwave steam bags are worth every penny and can I say that I’m so glad my nearest Lakeland is in Brent Cross and I don’t have a car. Lakeland is my guilty pleasure and I’m as addicted to their catalogues as a chocoholic is to cocoa.
You’ll have seen bags in a similar vein with frozen vegetables inside but Lakeland have found a supplier for home use.
The two steamers I own, one electric, the other basket, are going in my next bootie – they haven’t been used for years, have accumulated as much dust as Miss Havisham and are, as such, totally redundant. I bought a glut of reduced rhubarb – Dutch Meels – today as I’m currently on the Dukan Diet. For those of you unaware it’s the diet apparently every French woman follows and am abridged version has appeared in the Daily Mail. Everything, you might say to make an intelligent woman run as far away from it as possible but I need to get bikini-slim, follow a structured daily plan and I don’t want to exercise. A short, sharp shock of proteins as I don’t have a heap to lose, then a cycle of protein and vegetables every other day. No carbs, no fruit, no alcohol. I’ve got very creative with minced beef and you should see what I do with oat bran! The food I bake following the restricted ingredients isn’t really worth photographing, I’ll bake some lemon muffins next week and show you what I mean. Dairy is a large part of the diet and so I’m allowed custard – the art of which I have perfected. And, as rhubarb is a vegetable, very shortly it will form layers in a bastardised fool.
I digress, back to the bags. They come in two sizes.
Large – 25 x 25cm. Pack of 20 single use bags. £5.49
Medium – 20 x 25cm. Pack of 20 single use bags. £4.49
They are single use but are freezable so you can cook, cool and freeze which I intend to do with this batch of rhubarb. The other batch I’ll keep in the bag in the fridge and use it as and when.
I’ve tried the cheaper imitation bags and they just don’t stand up to scrutiny. The zip locks on these bags are great and don’t break after the first use. Surprisingly, you can get a bundle of asparagus and a crown of broccoli in the large bag and two servings of veg in the smaller bags. I’ve cooked salmon with butter (not recently) with a chunk of fresh dill atop for four minutes and the results are spectacular.
These bags are complete cheat, do what they say on the bag and takes a lot of pain out of producing a decent meal really quickly. Some will say they’re expensive, I’d disagree. No mess, no washing up and a flavour-locked meal in a thrice.
Rhubarb Fool – Dukan style
Traditional fool is one of the simplest, but finest puddings in the world. Pureed fruit is gently folded into whipped cream and as soon as you taste it you are transported to the Camomile Lawn on a balmy Summer’s day. I always use custard in mine – it harks back to my days of Mrs Anton’s Home Economics classes and making your own custard is as easy as mixing up a Bird’s powder – trust me on this one. Here I take all the fun out of the recipe because you can’t have cream on the Dukan. If you want to add it, beat 250mls double cream separately and then as it begins to set fold it into the fruit.
For 4 people you’ll need
500g rhubarb, cleaned trimmed and cut into slices
2 tbsp low calorie sweetener, I’ve been using Tesco low calorie granulated sweetener
Juice of 1 lemon
For the fresh custard
250ml Skimmed Milk
1 tsp Vanilla flavouring
1 fresh Vanilla Bean Pod or vanilla flavouring
Put the fruit in a large zip steam bag with sugar and lemon juice in a microwave on high 1000w for three and a half minutes (or until contents have become pulpy). You can heat the ingredients in a saucepan on a stovetop until the fruit becomes pulpy. Allow it to cool then blitz with a hand blender or food processor. If you haven’t got either roughly break down with a fork. Now to the custard. Open up the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Add these to the milk. Bring the milk to the boil. In a clean bowl, using a whisk, beat the eggs together then slowly pour over the hot milk. Transfer back to the saucepan and heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens, making sure not to let it boil. When the custard coats the back of a wooden spoon, it is ready to remove from the heat and add the sugar substitute, according to taste. Stir the custard in with the fruit or layer custard, rhubarb, custard, rhubarb in a small glass., as I have.
I also put a teaspoon of ginger powder into the rhubarb to give it an extra dimension.