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We know the world is a strange and scary place at the moment and that celebrating anything might be the last thing on your mind. But we really believe that, even in these challenging times, good food is worth cheering about. Cooking and eating healthy, delicious food has the power to both sustain us and give our spirits a lift – and we’ve got some fantastic new recipes to share with you.

You might remember that, back in February (don’t worry, it feels like a lifetime ago to us, too!), we kicked off our Free Food Festival – a celebration of those filling, flexible and all-round fantastic foods that help you eat well and protect your weight loss. Slimming World. Well, we’re not finished shining a light on our favourite Free Foods just yet…

We couldn’t resist getting our members involved in the festivities, so we invited them to take part in a classic cook-off competition. And our slimmers came up with some show-stopping recipes to show off Free Foods at their brilliant best.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing our winning recipes on the blog to inspire you to get creative with the Free Foods you’ve got available in your kitchen. And we’d love for you to share your ideas with us!

First up is our gold medal winner – drum roll, please… Jane Asterley, from Gill’s Oxton group, served up this Persian-spiced lamb and pomegranate pilaf – a slow-cooked triumph that’s completely Free!

Middle Feast

Jane says: “I love any opportunity to share food in group and inspire other members with the range of Free Food we can eat, so I jumped at the chance to enter the Free Food Festival cook-off.

I decided to use lamb as it’s something that, as a family, we only have as a treat. I’ve cooked it before with Middle Eastern spices and the sweetness of cinnamon really complements the richness of the meat. The pilaf needed to be full of flavour, so I used grains instead of rice and added mangetout to give it a crunchy texture – and the slight tartness of the pomegranate seeds balances the sweetness of the lamb really well.

I love that anyone can make this as it’s so easy, yet it feels like a really special dish. I made it again for Mother’s Day and Easter, and I’m looking forward to making it for my eldest son when we’re all able to get together as a family again.”

Jane’s Persian-spiced lamb and pomegranate pilaf

serves 2
ready in 4 hours 10 minutes, plus overnight marinating

What you need:

1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 level tbsp sweetener granules
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 lamb stock cube, crumbled
1 red onion, chopped
300g lean lamb leg steaks, visible fat removed, cut into bite-size chunks

For the pilaf:

120g dried bulgar wheat and quinoa
2 cardamom pods
1 tsp turmeric
100g mangetout, halved
100g radishes, finely sliced
4 spring onions, finely sliced
grated zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
small pack fresh parsley, chopped
100g pomegranate seeds

What you do:

1. First, prepare the lamb. Put the vinegar, sweetener, cumin, tomato purée, stock cube and red onion in a shallow dish and mix well. Add the lamb and coat well, then marinate in the fridge overnight.

2. Put the lamb and marinade in your slow-cooker pot and cook on low for 4-5 hours. 

3. When the lamb is nearly ready, make the pilaf. Rinse the bulgar wheat and quinoa and place in a saucepan over a high heat with the cardamom pods, turmeric and 1 litre cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 12-15 minutes. Drain well and pick out and discard the cardamom pods. 

4. Meanwhile, blanch the mangetout briefly in a saucepan of boiling water over a high heat. 

5. Drain the mangetout and stir into the drained bulgar wheat and quinoa along with all the remaining ingredients, reserving a little parsley and some pomegranate seeds. Season lightly.

6. Divide the lamb and pilaf between plates and scatter over the remaining parsley and pomegranate seeds to serve.

Persian-Spiced Lamb with Pomegranate Pilaf - Free Food Festival - Slimming World Blog

Slow-cooked superstars

Jane gets ahead by making this delicious dish in her slow cooker. Perfect for casseroles, curries and chillies – slow cooking is a tasty, time-saving way to make your mealtime favourites. All you need to do is assemble your dish, then sit back and relax while your slow cooker does the rest. We’ve already served up a satisfying collection of slowly simmered casseroles, stews, soups and risottos for you to try, and Slimming World members will find lots more slow-cooker recipe ideas over on the member website.

We hope Jane’s meltingly tender dish has brightened your day (at least a little) and got your taste buds tingling. We’ll be sharing what our silver medal-winning member made on the blog next week, along with loads more inspiring reads and slimming support to keep you going. If we’ve sparked an idea for creating your own Free Food feast, send us your foodie photos – we’d love to see them.

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