Making simple food taste special – chicken #1

I love quick, cheap and easy ways to make plain food such as a chicken breast taste really good.
Don’t get me wrong I thoroughly enjoy spending hours in the kitchen working on complicated dishes but more often that not I don’t have the time and at the moment definitely not the energy for it.

Every time I create an easy way to make my food taste that little bit extra special I’m going to share it on here, it may not be every week or even every month but I will try to do as many as I can.

Last night I had chicken breasts to work with and not an awful lot else as the big monthly shop is tomorrow but I wanted something tasty. I found a simple recipe for a lemon butter sauce in my latest Jamie Oliver mag and decided to make something that would work well with it so..

Chicken, Basil and Garlic parcels

You will need:

Chicken breasts (1 per person)
Approx 2 large basil leaves per breast
1 garlic clove per breast
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Tin foil

Preheat oven to gas mark 5.

Place your chicken breast in the centre of a large square of foil, pour over some olive oil and top with basil leaves,clove of garlic and seasoning. Make a parcel out of the foil, place in a baking tray and bake for approx 20 minutes. I say approx as breast size varies a lot and you obviously need to check its cooked. I use a meat thermometer to do so.

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Tips:

*I use flavoured salts, often smoked but on this occasion I used a pink pepper salt so I didn’t need pepper as well. Flavoured salt will transform your food – I currently have 4 different types and my favourite is Maldon smoked sea salt. They are more expensive than normal salts but seem to last forever as you need such a little bit.

*I also use smoked garlic for this kind of dish, I tend to pick mine up from markets or food festivals but they smell them in most supermarkets now.

*If you don’t have basil try this with any fresh herb that you have at home.

To serve your breast remove from foil and leave to cool slightly then slice and arrange on plate – I topped with lemon butter sauce.

Lemon Butter sauce

Melt 125g butter in a pan and then whisk in the juice of 1 lemon and season. Pour over your chicken or fish. Easy peasy lemon squeezy – couldn’t resist that.

I understand this is far from gourmet cooking and that a lot of you will cook like this all the time but for me a simple addition like garlic and herbs makes a huge difference to my food and I hope it helps some of you in some way.

I think the beauty of this is that the chicken tastes so good that you can serve it with a very basic side salad and a stuffed pepper and still feel like you have eaten a really good meal:

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The roasted garlic tastes amazing by the way.

What do you do to make your food taste special?

Comforting chicken casserole

Last Sunday I decided to try out one of the recipes in the Slow Cooker book I received for Christmas – Chicken Fricassee. It sounded delicious. After following the initial first step of tossing my chicken in seasoned flour and sautéing until brown I realised I didn’t have two of the key ingredients I needed to make this dish but I was determined to make SOMETHING so I worked out what I did have and what I came up with was this amazingly rich and comforting chicken casserole. Afterwards I scribbled down the recipe as I assure you this is one I’ll be making again.

Chicken Casserole

You will need:

2 tbsp olive oil
4 chicken thighs ( the original recipe called for thighs & drumsticks)
3 slices of smoked bacon chopped finely
2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned with salt&pepper
4 shallots, sliced
3 garlic cloves crushed
3 waxy potatoes and 1 sweet potato chopped into very small pieces
115g of sliced mushrooms
2 tsp of finely chopped fresh rosemary
150ml red wine
200ml of hot chicken stock
1 bay leaf
Salt & Pepper

Heat oil in a large pan, toss chicken in seasoned flour and then cook for 8-10 mins until golden brown. Remove and set aside.

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Add your bacon and shallots and cook for a few mins stirring occasionally. Add your garlic, mushrooms, potatoes and rosemary and cook for 2 minutes stirring often.

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Add your wine and bring to the boil then allow to simmer for 1 minute. Transfer everything to the slow cooker and pour in the stock, add the chicken and bay leaf cover and cook on high for 5 hours.

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45 minutes before the end of cooking time use two forks to tear your chicken thighs into smaller pieces – this should be easy as it will be super tender, also at this time if desired add dumplings. These are a wonderful addition to the casserole but it would be perfectly lovely without them.

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Serve with dumplings or fresh homemade bread – lots of bread recipes will appear shortly as part of my new challenge. I made soda bread to accompany our casserole and you can find the recipe here

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““This post is part of the #FaveFamilyRecipes Competition with BritMums and Tilda Rice. Every pack sold will provide a meal to an expectant mum in need in support of the World Food Programme’s Mothers Helping Mothers initiative in Bangladesh.”

Quesadillas – Simple Suppers #3

Have you ever made or eaten a quesadilla? They are very similar to a fajita and incredibly tasty. It pretty much consists of two tortilla wraps filled with ingredients of your choice ( always include cheese) and cooked on either side – similar to a toastie.

I saw a photo on Pinterest a while back and all it said underneath was chicken, cheese and pineapple quesadilla. My mouth watered. Time went by as it tends to do and I forgot about this but when having a recent cupboard sort out I found a tin of pineapple rings and it flashed into mind. I had half a cooked chicken leftover from the previous day and a few small different flavoured chunks of cheese lurking in my fridge. It was decided.

You will need:

Tortilla wraps ( as many as you want to eat or share with lucky loved ones)
Pineapple ( fresh or tinned is fine)
Cooked shredded/torn chicken
Cheese ( I used a mixture of mild&mature cheddar and Red Leicester)
Butter

Firstly chop your pineapple into small pieces and grate your cheese. Place a small knob of butter into a frying pan and sauté your pineapple until they begin to caramelise- yum.

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Add your chicken and any other ingredients you wish to add – I finely chopped a banana chilli for some extra zing- and heat throughout. If you have a griddle pan get it on the heat ( if not simply use a frying pan) and when very hot quickly toast your tortillas on both sides and place on a plate. Now place 1 tortilla wrap in griddle pan put a big spoonful or two of your chicken/pineapple mix into the middle, top with cheese and a teeny squirt of BBQ sauce and place a second tortilla firmly on top.

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After a minute or so be brave and flip it over so both tortillas are nicely browned. A griddle pan makes a huge difference to the appearance but probably none to taste. Repeat until you have used up all your wraps/filling.

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This simple supper is delicious. It looks like you made an effort but is easy peasy and can be adapted to use up any leftovers you may have.

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Bon appetit

🙂

The benefits of being a disorganised chef

When it comes to my kitchen I am pretty disorganised, even more so since having Izzy over a year ago. I blame not having enough cupboard space to be properly organised but really I’m just not very good at it. This week my forgetfulness and general disorder of my cupboards has caused me to not be able to cook three meals/recipes that I wanted to but twice it meant I had to come up with something else to make and resulted in two very lovely dishes. So there is one benefit of being disorganised.

On Tuesday I had a craving for jam tarts..not to eat them but I craved making them. Sound weird to you? I lovingly made my shortcrust pastry from scratch ( it will shock you but this was my first time making it since I was young I normally cheat and buy ready made) and even rolled it and cut into discs (very ragged discs since I don’t seem to have a round pastry cutter) before reaching into the depths of a crowded cupboard to pull out my jam which was in fact a jar of plum sauce.. Frustrating and by this point I really wanted a jam tart. Since it was getting late neither of us fancied a trip to the shops so a quick scan of what ingredients I had resulted in me making custard tarts. They were really tasty and I’d never made them before so it was fun.

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This morning I started to put ingredients together to make a slow cooked beef stew, again I was missing a crucial ingredient (chopped tomatoes) I always always have a zillion tins of this in my cupboard but it seems they finally ran dry. Around the same time my OH fancied waffles .. I also thought hmmm that would be nice and pulled out my eggs and milk before realising I’d run out of flour. Disappointed and we had to make do with egg on toast.. Not quite the same.

So anyway we get to this evening and as I don’t have my beef stew I decided to try out an idea I saw on Pinterest some time ago for chicken, cheese and pineapple quesadillas.

Wow they were so good. I didn’t have a recipe to go by so I just went with what I had and it turned out beautifully.

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So I guess there are some benefits to being a little ditsy with the shopping lists and having cluttered cupboards as we had two new dishes to try which were both luckily very good!
This can’t quite make up for the disappointment I felt when getting ready tonight to prep my pork shoulder for pulled pork tomorrow and realising I’d forgotten not one or two but 3 ingredients. It’s been one of those weeks.

December sees a brand new me, well in my kitchen at least. My lovely man is working on a pantry for me and then I will have no excuse. Clutter no more. Any helpful tips for kitchen organisation will be gratefully accepted.

My “pantry” as it looks right now .. I will report back x

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Eating well on a budget. Simple suppers #2

Last year sometime I saw a version of this recipe on Pinterest and it looked good but I forgot all about it until a few months ago when I was struggling for ideas on what to cook for supper with very few ingredients at home. I vaguely remembered seeing this but couldn’t remember the quantities etc so I just threw it all together with the addition of an extra ingredient and WOW.

I don’t know who originally gave me the idea on pinterest but thanks 🙂

So here you go a very simple supper:

Garlic sugared chicken

You will need:

3 chicken breasts
5 tablespoons of brown sugar
5 tablespoons of olive oil
4 garlic cloves crushed or diced
1/2 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes

Preheat your oven at gas mark 4.
Warm olive oil in a cazuela or ovenproof pan in your hob before adding your garlic and chilli until softened and then add your chicken for just long enough to brown. Once your chicken is browned stir in the brown sugar until coated and then place in oven for around 15 minutes before stirring again to ensure your chicken is well covered in the garlicky, sugary goodness. Place back in oven for 10 mins then shred the chicken whilst still in the pan, stir through again and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Serve with a large salad and Nigella Lawsons Tuscan chips. ( recipe below)

This chicken is deliciously sweet and goey with a kick of chilli.

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Ahh Tuscan chips. Nigella is so clever, creating beautiful chips with minimal effort. Here is the recipe Tuscan chips

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Next up on the blog is BBQ pulled pork 🙂

Using it all up in recipe challenge week 2

As part of my new recipe challenge last week I made chicken in garlic and mushroom sauce well although today is only Monday I have outdone myself with two new recipes already under my belt for the week. I decided to do this as part of another personal challenge which is all about budgeting and creating little waste. So today I used up the remaining thigh and drumstick meat from the chicken I used to make the dish with the garlic and mushroom sauce in a chicken, chorizo and chickpea casserole for my first new recipe and then used up the old scraggly bits of meat and the rest of the carcass for my first ever attempt at making chicken stock. My house has smelt pretty damn good all day long.

The recipe for the chicken stock which I found on the wonderful Jamie Oliver website is here: Jamie’s easy chicken stock it really is easy to make and I enjoyed it. I can’t imagine I will be wanting shop bought stock anytime soon.

The casserole was made using just a frying pan and my slow cooker. I love my slow cooker, I probably don’t use it enough but its fab and they are reasonably cheap these days so treat yourself for those days when you want a delicious meal but less time fussing over a hot stove. Ideal for when you want to spend your evenings relaxing with your loved ones.

Chicken, chorizo and chickpea casserole

Chicken – I used two thighs, two drumsticks and a little breast meat
1 tin of chickpeas drained
3 inch chunk of chorizo chopped into small cubes
1/2 a courgette
2 sticks of celery
A handful of cubed sweet potato
1/2 green pepper chopped
Tin of chopped tomatoes
1 pint or chicken stock
Mushrooms chopped (optional)
Red onion diced
2 cloves of garlic minced
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of saffron threads
2 teaspoons of sweet smoked paprika

In a hot pan with a little olive oil brown your chicken and chorizo together before adding garlic,onions,celery and mushrooms leaving to soften.
Pour chickpeas,courgette,chopped tomatoes,pepper, sweet potato and stock as into slow cooker before adding saffron and paprika and turn onto high setting.
After 10 minutes add contents of pan into slow cooker also and leave for 3-4 hours.

And that’s it. Your kitchen will smell beautiful and the smoky sweet paprika combined with everything else will give you a delicious meal with hardly any hassle. Enjoy x

The recipe challenge ..week 1

Ok so most of you will already know that I am on a major diet at the moment and it’s working really really well.. I have so far lost 1stone and 3lb and I’ve been dieting since May 28th so I’m pretty proud of myself. There are two reasons I think it’s working well:

1. I am walking most days pushing a fairly hefty weight (baby, buggy and occasionally shopping) or carrying said baby around or playing about with her at home.

2. I am not depriving myself of everything. Most days I use myfitnesspal – I can’t really recommend it enough as it really helps me to keep an eye on what I eat. I limit myself to 1200 calories and keep it as low fat/sugar as possible however I still have treats and the occasional indulgent meals as I’m a foodie I love to cook and eat and I see no reason why I shouldn’t do that in fact I firmly believe it is helping me diet for longer!

After spending 2 days at The Plum baby cookery school followed by 5 days at Blissfields festival I was really missing home cooking so this past week I have cooked a lot. Mostly dishes I have cooked before such as vegetable curry and spaghetti bolognese ( topped with sautéed spinach and leeks- so good) but I am aiming to try a new recipe (from a book, online or friends) or invent a new recipe of my own each week from here on so last night I made chicken in a garlic and mushroom sauce now this is hardly a wondrous new invention of mine as chicken, mushrooms and garlic go together like strawberries and cream but I didn’t follow any kind of recipe and it turned out so well I would quite happily eat it every day this week.

My chicken in garlic and mushroom sauce:

Two large chicken breasts (free range please)
Double cream-150ml
Butter ( small knob)
Red onion diced
2 cloves of garlic minced
8 mushrooms ( I used closed cup as that’s what I had but use whatever you like) chopped finely
Ground pepper ( I use a mix of black and pink peppercorns) and salt
Sprig of thyme
Olive oil

In a pan or small cazuela sauté your diced onion and garlic in olive oil and butter being careful not to burn the garlic, after a few minutes add your mushrooms and cook for 5 more minutes before adding your cream, thyme and seasoning. Remove from best
Heat a little olive oil in a large cazuela or pan which is ovenproof and pan fry your chicken breasts for a few minutes each side, pour over your mushroom sauce and cook at approx 190 deg or gas mark 4. After 20 minutes remove from oven and shred the chicken ( you can leave the breasts whole but I prefer it this way for this kind of dish) into the sauce before retuning to oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven adding a little more pepper and serve immediately.

* I served with sauté potatoes, peppers and leek and a giant salad but I imagine it would be lovely with rice or mixed into pasta.

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This is a fairly naughty dish for me as it has double cream but it was worth it and I didn’t gain any lbs. 🙂

Instead of a dessert I was inspired by a tweet I saw from Beverley Glock who was the food expert at Plum cookery school for a recipe for Pimms frozen cocktails.. Now the recipe she tweeted had lime sorbet as a base but I didn’t have any limes so I improvised and it was refreshing and tongue
tingling.

Pimms slushie:

Pimms ( as much or little as you like) I used about 100ml
Fresh mint .. A handful should do it, washed of course.
10 frozen strawberries
10-15 fresh strawberries
Cucumber, orange, strawberries and mint to garnish.

I mixed all of the above ingredients into my smoothie maker and it tasted just perfect. Looking forward to making this again and again this summer.

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