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?

Creamy Meatball and Gnocchi bake – #hungrytohappy

I was recently sent some vouchers for Richmonds mini meatballs as part of the Britmums hungry2happy competition. The challenge was to make a new recipe using the meatballs. I love a recipe challenge and I was soon thinking up ideas. If you read my blog regularly you will know that most of the meals I make are proper family dishes, good hearty and mostly healthy meals which can be made cheaply and quickly whilst not compromising on taste. I kept this in mind for the challenge and came up with a dish that my family loved and that I know I will make again.

Gnocchi is one of my favourite foods, I love to make it from scratch but for a quick easy meal you can’t go wrong with the store bought packets. They normally cost less than a pound per packet and when combined with a few ingredients you could well have in your cupboard already then it can make a filling and delicious meal. I decided to make a Gnocchi and Meatball bake as I knew that this would be simple to create and cheap!

Creamy Gnocchi and Meatball bake

You will need:

1/2 packet of Richmonds mini meatballs
1 packet of Gnocchi
250g of Passata
3 tbsp of creme fraiche
1 shallot ( diced)
1/2 a pepper ( I used yellow, diced )
1 large tomato (diced)
1 squeeze of garlic purée or 1 clove (diced)
Fresh herbs ( I used basil – I love it ) dried would be ok too
Grated cheese ( approx 100g)
Olive oil
Seasoning ( if required)

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Preheat oven to gas mark 4 (180)

Cook your meatballs as per packet instructions whilst you prepare your ingredients.

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Heat some olive oil in a large ovenproof pan or cazuela and add your pepper, tomatoes,onions, garlic and herbs, cook over a low heat until softened.

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Cook your gnocchi per packet instructions (normally approx 3minutes ) then drain and add to your pan with passata, creme fraiche and seasoning if needed. Stir well. Add your now cooked meatballs ( I chopped in half to make it toddler friendly) and make sure the sauce covers all ingredients. Add your grated cheese, top with more herbs if you like and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes until golden and bubbling.

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Serve with a large green salad and if you like perhaps some garlic bread.

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The verdict: it was absolutely delicious. The sauce is creamy and the meatballs are incredibly tender after being cooked that way … Yum.

You could adapt this in lots of ways, using up vegetables you have left in you fridge or cupboard. If you are calorie counting you could use just passata rather adding creme fraiche and you could certainly replace the grated cheese with herby breadcrumbs. You could also use pasta instead of the gnocchi but I think for this dish gnocchi is best.

*This post is an entry for BritMums’ Hungry to Happy Challenge sponsored by Richmond Mini Meatballs

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Breaded Garlic Mushrooms

I know I said that I was going to try posting healthier recipes but I lied. Well I didn’t lie. I did try and am still trying but sometimes an idea comes to me and I just have to act on it.

I enjoy the odd garlic mushroom. Normally as a starter or on a sharing plate during a pub meal, occasionally I have bought ready made ones at the supermarket but I’ve always been disappointed. They either do not taste of anything or they are soggy.

Well due to my current budgeting/frugal living I had a ton of breadcrumbs, I also had some mushrooms that were almost ready to die. Really I had no choice. I’ve never attempted to make them before and didn’t look up a recipe so this is probably (definitely) not the traditional way to make them. You will need just 4 ingredients.

Ingredients:

Mushrooms – any ones ( washed and dried)
Breadcrumbs
Beaten egg
Garlic paste ( in a tube like tomato purée)

Get two plates, put your breadcrumbs on one and your beaten egg on another. Mix in a few squirts garlic paste with your beaten egg ( leave to sit for 10 mins) heat the oil in your pan or deep fat fryer until bubbling. Roll each mushroom in egg ( cover well) then roll in breadcrumbs (also cover well)
Cook in hot oil until golden brown and crispy.

Serve with anything. A homemade garlic mayo alongside would be epic but sweet chilli is good too.

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Breadcrumbs tip – instead of throwing leftover bread away, mix with herbs until fine in a processor and freeze in small portions in freezer bags. It defrosts almost immediately and can be used in a number of dishes.

Super (food) sides

Curly Kale may not be that familiar to you. Not all supermarkets stock it and its only readily available from September- March. Kale is a brassica and part of the cabbage family, it’s very attractive in dishes due to its green curly leaves and packed full of nutrients – considered by many to be a superfood. I have only recently started buying it but I can tell you it’s delicious and versatile.

The recipe below is one I have made previously with Savoy cabbage but I actually prefer this with the Kale.

Sautéed curly kale with bacon and sweet potato

You will need:

Curly kale ( I buy washed and ready to cook) break up any big bits and discard chunky stalks
2/3 rashers of bacon diced
1/2 a sweet potato chopped very small
2 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 a banana chilli diced finely
1/2 a red onion diced
Butter
Olive oil
Seasoning

Heat a little butter and olive oil in a large frying pan or cazuela, add your sweet potato, onion, garlic, bacon and chilli and sauté for 10 minutes or so until bacon is golden and everything else is softening. Add your curly kale, season and cook for a few more minutes. Don’t overcook and ensure it doesn’t burn.

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Serve immediately on warmed plates – cold kale is like cold cabbage. Not good.
This is great as a side with chicken or fish or on top of spaghetti aglio olio – yum.

Last time I made this I threw in a handful of peppery rocket right at the end and it was very good!

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Served on top of spaghetti with a small amount of crumbled extra mature cheddar.

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Don’t neglect one of the most nutritionally rich vegetables in Britain. Next week I’m going to try making Baked Kale chips as a low calorie alternative to crisps.

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 🙂

Eating well on a budget- simple suppers

The nights are getting colder and I want to create more warm, inviting dinners but without spending a fortune. I will try to post recipes as and when I use them to give you some tips for cheap and cheerful meals that all the family can enjoy.

Tomato and bacon gnocchi bake

500g Gnocchi – I use Il Pastaio Gnocchi which is a bargain 78p in Asda
400ml Passata – I typically use the value range from Sainsburys or Asda which is around 30p.
4 or 5 rashers of smoked bacon diced- roughly £1.50
75g of cheddar grated – approx £1
2 garlic cloves diced finely -approx 20p
1 glug of Olive oil -from cupboard
Any fresh herbs you have (dried at a push)
Sea salt
Black pepper

Cook gnocchi to packet instructions and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a small cazuela or ovenproof pan and sauté garlic and bacon until bacon is golden, add your gnocchi and passata. Stir well adding your herbs and season. Sprinkle over grated cheese and place in your oven for 15 minutes until golden on top and bubbling.

Serve with a large leafy salad.

Serves 2 hungry adults with a little leftover.

A beautiful tasty meal for around £4.

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Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Just a very quick recipe for you as I made these last night and they were so easy but soooo good.

We are currently having a meat free fortnight,not for any ethical reason really but I like to try out new veggie recipes occasionally and of course it makes the weekly shop a lot cheaper!

Stuffed portobello mushrooms

2 mushroom halves
100g cream cheese ( I used light cream cheese)
2 cubes of frozen spinach defrosted and drained of excess water
Teaspoon of garlic puree or 2 crushed cloves
Chilli flakes ( depends on how hot you want it,I added a 1/4 teaspoon)
Freshly ground pepper
50g of parmesan grated

Mix cream cheese with spinach,garlic, chilli and 1/2 the parmesan and fill your mushroom halves. Sprinkle over remaining Parmesan and season with black pepper. Place in a preheated oven at gas mark 4 (180) for 20 mins until golden in colour.

I served mine with veggies and cauliflower cheese but it would be equally nice with a simple salad.

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