25 October 2018

Latin American Chicken - frisky, fruity and delicious

Well, colour me surprised and extremely impressed by this recipe.  Some recipes you can look at and immediately imagine the flavours, know how it is likely to look, what consistency the sauce will be etc. This one, I had a good idea of the flavours but I couldn't, for the life of me, think what sort of consistency it would turn out to be and whether the flavours would be intense or somewhat wishy-washy.  You see, I have something of a past history with wishy-washy tomato based chicken dishes.  *coughs behind hand*  Moving on ....

I don't remember finding this recipe, but it was there in my "new recipes" folder on my computer so I obviously spotted it at some point and saved it for future reference.  As you do.  I have so many recipes saved that I have had to categorise them to within an inch of their lives in order to keep control.  Without the blessed categories, there'd be recipes romping unchecked everywhere as soon as I got past the opening window, I'm sure of it.  Anyway, there it was (here, if you're curious) and originally intended to be a recipe for the slow cooker.

Now although - as you know - I do have a slow cooker, in this instance it wouldn't have been a lot of use as I was cooking for just the two of us and the ingredients would have got lost in my big old crockpot.  Whatever you can cook in a slow cooker can be cooked in an oven, so that's where it ended up and (ssssshhh, don't tell anyone) but I think it may have been all the better for it, too.

As a matter of necessity, I tweaked the recipe remorselessly.  Things such as leaf coriander went out of the window, in favour of ground coriander, as my chaps really don't like leaf coriander.  I didn't have any allspice, so in went a combination of cinnamon, mace and a bit more ground coriander for luck.  For all that I did have a can of black beans, it would have made way too much so I swapped them out for a small can of red kidney beans and crossed my fingers.

The bit I was having trouble with, was knowing quite how the sauce would turn out - and indeed, if I would wind up with any sauce at all.  You see, apart from a small amount of chicken stock and a much larger amount of spicy salsa (for which, I used Asda's salsa in a jar) plus any juice that might leach out from the red pepper and sweet potatoes, there wasn't any identifiable "sauce" as such.  Now, cooked in a slow cooker, this wouldn't be such an issue as they do tend to water their contents down through returning the steam back into the pot as condensation.  I decided the best thing was to prevent the loss of steam created during the cooking process and covered the casserole dish with a tight sheet of silver foil under the lid.  Oh and crossed my fingers.  Essential bit of cooking technology, that.  Well hurrah for crossed fingers, because it worked!

The end result had just enough sauce to keep the contents nicely moistened, the chicken soft and tender and with the final addition of a squeeze of lime juice, was sooooo blinking delicious!  Plus, of course, the added benefit that other than a bit of chicken frying the cooking was a simple matter of heating everything up in the chicken pan, pouring it into the casserole dish and waving goodbye to it for an hour and a half.  Take fifteen minutes of that time to cook some rice and ~back of hand to forehead~ oh the stress!  SLAVING over a hot stove (a.k.a. reading my book in the living room) whilst the dinner cooked.  Perfect.

Do, by all means, feel free to cook the original incarnation of this recipe if it appeals, but I have noted down my version of it below, which is of course a whole lot better.  *wink*  If you prefer chicken thighs, you'll possibly need to increase the cooking time by a half hour or so, depending on how big and muscly your chicken is.


Ingredients :

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
sea salt
ground black pepper
1 tsp plus 1 tsp ground coriander
2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
1 red pepper, de-seeded and cut into strips
1 large clove of garlic, sliced finely
1 200g tin of red kidney beans, drained
200ml chicken stock (made with 1 stock cube or 1 tsp stock powder)
200g spicy salsa from a jar
half a tsp of ground cumin
half a tsp of ground cinnamon
half a tsp of ground mace
a pinch of dried red chilli flakes (to taste)
a small bunch of fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish
lime wedges, for garnish.

Method :

To begin with, pre-heat your oven to 180degC/350degF/gas 4.

Then, take each chicken breast and cut it in half horizontally so that you end up with two much thinner pieces of chicken for each breast.  This will ensure the chicken cooks evenly.

Heat the rapeseed oil in a large frying pan over a moderate/high heat and lay each piece of chicken inside.  Quickly sprinkle with half of one of the tsp of ground coriander and a pinch of sea salt & black pepper, turn the chicken and repeat for the other side.  Fry the chicken until golden on the one side, then turn it over and complete the frying on the other side.  If the chicken isn't quite cooked through it doesn't matter as it will complete cooking in the oven.  Once golden on both sides, remove the chicken to a lidded casserole dish and reserve.

Tip the sweet potatoes, red pepper and garlic into the frying pan - add a little more rapeseed oil if necessary - and fry until the garlic is golden, the potatoes have coloured in places and the red pepper has begun to soften - around 5-10 minutes.

Add the red kidney beans, stock, salsa, remaining ground coriander, cumin, cinnamon, mace and chilli flakes and stir through.  Bring to a boil and add a little more water if necessary, as it can evaporate quite quickly.  Pour the contents into the casserole dish and stir through.

Cover the casserole dish with a tight fitting layer of silver foil and the casserole lid and place into the middle of your oven for 1.5 hours.  I would advise checking the liquid level after an hour, just in case your sealing hasn't quite worked!  If necessary, top up with a little water or chicken stock.

I served mine with basmati rice that had been cooked in vegetable stock, with a few added peas and a very naughty knob of butter melted through.  Sprinkle the chopped parsley over the top and add a couple of lime wedges for squeezing.  Scrummy!

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31 August 2018

Lincolnshire sausage & sun dried tomato quiche - feeds a crowd!

If there's one thing that my menfolk are guaranteed to eat, it's a slice of quiche.  As I have now conquered my (stupid, as it turns out) tendency towards a soggy bottom (don't bake the tin on a baking tray - the two layers prevent the pastry from cooking properly.  So simple, but it took me years to work it out!) making quiche has become a regular occurrence in our house.

The good thing about quiche is that there are so many different variations of filling.  Yes, there's the good old bacon & cheese that always gets the thumbs up, but really you can put just about anything into a quiche so long as it's not wet, or will cook wetly.  (Courgette, I'm looking at you here).

In this instance, I was looking for something that would provide a man-pleasing filling.  Now my hubby has always loved Lincolnshire sausages, whereas I have been rather less than complimentary about them.  It's not as though I actively dislike them, it's just that there are other types of sausage that I find more appealing.  Stop giggling at the back!  I did think, though, that their herby character would go nicely in a quiche and tomato seemed a natural bedfellow for them.  Of course, it just isn't quiche if it doesn't have some cheese in and/or on it, so some mature cheddar was a given.  Now our son has a serious dislike of cooked tomato (he picks the tomato off the top of his quiche, strange child), which is where the sun dried tomato comes in.  Perfect.

The filling made up to be a good, deep fill with lots of character and substance, just what I was after.  You could certainly feed a crowd with this one, as mine very nicely cut into six decent sized portions, served with salad and chips for the menfolk.  I now have half a quiche (three portions) which should keep the wolf from the door for us all at lunchtime tomorrow, as well.

Oh and incidentally, as a means of making six sausages go adequately around three people, you can't beat it!


Ingredients :

400g Lincolnshire sausages, removed from their skins
approx. 300g shortcrust pastry (sufficient for an 8" sandwich or flan dish, approx. 1" deep)
3 extra large eggs
150ml soured cream
a half tsp of ground black pepper
a quarter tsp of sea salt
70g mature cheddar cheese, grated
6 pieces of sun-dried tomato (I used the ones in oil), sliced
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped fine
1 medium tomato, sliced finely into 5 slices.

Method :

Your first job is to cook the sausages.  Pre-heat your oven to 180degC/350degF/Gas 4. Remove the sausage skins and pinch off small pieces of sausage meat, forming them into balls.  1 sausage will make around 5 balls.  Place onto a foil-lined tray and give them a light coat of cooking spray.  Place into the middle of your oven for around 20 minutes until cooked through and just beginning to brown.  Once cooked, set aside to cool a little.

Next, you need to part-bake the pastry case.  If you are using pre-rolled pastry, keep it on the baking paper and roll it out a little bit thinner than it arrives.  Cut a piece that is significantly bigger than the baking dish or tin you will be using.  Keeping the pastry on the baking paper, gently sink it into the tin making sure there are no bubbles under the pastry and it is pressed gently into the corners.  Carefully remove the baking paper and trim off the majority of the excess with a sharp knife, but leave a decent overhang to cope with any shrinkage.

Replace the baking paper and lightly smooth it across the base.  Pour in your baking beans in an even layer and place the tin centrally into the oven for 20 minutes.  You can use this time to make the filling.

Break each of the eggs into a cup and pour them into a large bowl.  Doing this ensures that if one of your eggs is off or even slightly dodgy, you don't lose the lot!  Add the soured cream and whisk together.  Next, add the black pepper, sea salt, two thirds of the grated cheese and the parsley and stir until everything is combined.

Remove the pastry case from the oven and gently lift out the baking beans by holding the greaseproof paper.  Set the baking beans aside to cool down.

Tip the sausage balls into the pastry case and sprinkle over the pieces of sun dried tomato.  Pour in the egg/cream mixture and sprinkle over the remaining grated cheese.  Add the five tomato slices in an attractive pattern.

Gently place the quiche into the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the filling has risen, turned golden and feels fairly firm when pressed in the middle.

Remove from the oven and place onto a cooling rack for 5-10 minutes.  You can now trim back the overhanging spare pastry and if you are using a loose bottomed tin, remove the quiche from the tin and place it back onto the cooling rack.  Serve whilst still a little warm or at room temperature, with a crunchy garden salad.

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29 August 2018

Tasty turkey stuffed Romano peppers

This recipe, which came from my fevered imagination whilst I was craving stuffed peppers one day, succeeded in surprising even myself.  Oh yes, in a positive way, of course!  You wouldn't be seeing it if the reverse was true as I very much keep my failures to myself.  Well, apart from sharing the very worst of them on my Facebook page, where it's worth it for the laugh.

Anyway, these 'ere stuffed red pointy peppers are just totally lush.  The tasty turkey mince filling (you could use pork mince, if turkey isn't your thing) is flavoured with Italian style influences - tomato and sun dried tomato pesto predominate - yet they have a Mexican touch with the spicy Mexicana cheese that tops each pepper.  The gorgeously soft, sweet, fruity flavour of the peppers themselves just brings everything together in a deliciously amalgamated whole.

I recommend serving the peppers either with something creamily rich like a mushroom risotto (which is my choice), or a fresh crunchy mixed salad with a creamy dressing.  I think either would work as well as the other.

Super-simple to make, the bit that takes the longest time is the making of the filling.  However if you're going to be pushed for time then that can easily be made ahead and even frozen (but defrost before use), thus making the preparation a simple matter of filling the peppers and putting them in the oven.  From getting out the ingredients to sitting down to eat took around 90 minutes, but then I'm incredibly slow.  However, it gives you an idea of the time required.

Go!  Fry!  Stuff!  Bake!  Enjoy!  (A glass of wine wouldn't go amiss, either).  *chuckle*


Ingredients :

2 long red pointed Romano peppers, cut into two lengthways and de-seeded
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 red onion, diced finely
1 garlic clove, diced finely
sea salt & ground black pepper, to taste
300g minced lean turkey
1 vine ripened medium tomato, diced
4 cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 tsp tomato puree
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
half a tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1 tbsp sun dried tomato pesto
1 tsp reduced salt Knorr chicken stock powder
100ml warm water
1 tbsp torn fresh basil leaves
60g sliced Mexicana cheese, or grated mature cheddar.

Method :

Pre-heat your oven to 180degC/350degF/Gas 4.

Before beginning to cook the filling, deal with the two peppers and cut them in half lengthways, remove the pith and seeds but leave the stem attached.  Place them into a suitably sized baking dish.

Heat the rapeseed oil in a large frying pan and add the onion & garlic.  Fry until the onion is softened and beginning to take on colour.  Season with a pinch of sea salt and a couple of pinches of black pepper.

Push the onion & garlic across to one side of the pan and add the turkey mince.  Break up the mince and fry until there is no pink colour left.  Mix the onions & garlic in and continue to fry.

Add the diced and quartered tomatoes, frying until the pieces have softened and are beginning to dissolve into the mix.  Add the tomato puree, tomato ketchup, dried oregano, chopped parsley, pesto, chicken stock powder and water.  Stir gently to combine and cook on until everything is mixed well together and the liquid has reduced significantly.  You are after a fairly dry mix, so that the mince doesn't just flow out of the peppers!  Once you are happy with the consistency, add the torn basil leaves and stir through.  Taste for seasoning and adjust both salt & pepper to taste.

Divide the mince mixture between the four pepper halves and either place the Mexicana cheese slices over the mince, or sprinkle the cheddar over the top of each pepper.

Place the baking dish into the middle of the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the cheese is golden and bubbly.

Serve with some wild mushroom risotto, or alternatively a fresh mixed salad.

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23 May 2018

Best ever Moussaka - with a little bit of help!

Now, before going any further, if you've come here looking for the original version of my recipe for Moussaka and are aghast to find it has been replaced by this one - do let me know and I will reinstate it.  You see, in my opinion, this new recipe is such a totally different kettle o' lamb deliciousness, it quite outstrips the old recipe.  Although, having said that, this recipe carries an awful lot of the previous incarnation along with it - just with a few tweaks and twists that have made such a difference.  So anyway - to horse!  Or kitchen.  lol

You'll be wondering what makes the big difference.  Well, firstly, I've got a new way of preparing the aubergines that works so beautifully well.  Instead of brushing the aubergine slices with olive oil and having them absorb half a bottleful, I am now taking advantage of that wonderful thing, the low calorie cooking spray.  In my case, a 1 calorie coconut oil version.  Spray the tray, lay the aubergine slices on, spray each slice, sprinkle with salt and pepper and into the oven they go.  They come out beautifully toasty, sweet and soft without being greasy in the slightest - which of course, then cuts the amount of oil your Moussaka is dealing with.  Perfect.

Secondly, I've included some garlic.  Now don't go looking all horrified, what I'm looking for here is flavour and it's only one clove.  Some traditional Moussaka recipes ask for it, some shun it completely.  Believe me, it makes a difference so go for it.

My third big improvement is that I have been using a pre-prepared bechamel sauce, to which I add two egg yolks and a good amount of nutmeg, plus as much seasoning as is required.  Yes, I have a taste just to test how much seasoning to use.  Now if you're hale and hearty and able to make your own bechamel by all means be my guest and do so.  If, however, you're like me and a short cut to deliciousness can only result in your not feeling so trashed later on in the day, then buy some.  I heartily recommend Lidl's Italiamo Besciamella as being one that is a gorgeous texture and delicious flavour.  A great starting point for any white sauce!

Now comes the big discussion point.  To potato or not potato.  For me and for all that I love potatoes, they are not welcome in my Moussaka.  I reckon that potato was only included because the price of a) lamb and b) aubergines became prohibitive and to make the dish more of a meal, potatoes were introduced.  I can respect that - I've done things like that myself, over the years.  However, I can't help but think that a true Moussaka should be just meat (and sauce), aubergines and bechamel sauce with nutmeg & cheese.  However, if you're trying to feed a big family and sliced potatoes will help make your Moussaka go further, then use them.  (It helps to add them to the aubergines being baked in the oven to par-cook.  Makes sure they cook through in the Moussaka).

There are two ingredients that it is important you don't skip.  One is the wine - absolutely essential.  Two is the teaspoonful of mint jelly.  The sweetness of the jelly helps to round out the acidity of the wine and as we all know, mint and lamb are a combination made in heaven.

Now I've used Grana Padano cheese for my Moussaka, but that is by no means set in stone.  I would have used Kefalotyri if I could have found any, or Parmesan if my son didn't hate the stuff.  To be honest, I dare say a good mature Cheddar would do the trick as you don't use very much.  So, I shall leave the cheese up to your own taste - but don't leave it out!  It is essential for getting that beautiful golden crust on the finished article.

Yes, this recipe takes time and yes, it makes a prodigious amount of washing up, however you can easily combat both of those points by making the dish up to the point of putting it in the oven and set it aside (even overnight, if needs be!) until required.  (I make mine in the morning, ready for eating that evening).  You just pre-heat the oven and in it goes.  As for the washing up, well hopefully you'll have had time to deal with that in the meantime, making clean up after dinner itself a relatively simple matter.

Choices of things to serve alongside your Moussaka include garlic bread, chips (a.k.a. fries) and of course, the ubiquitous side salad or even better a Greek salad of tomatoes, cucumber, olives, red onion and feta cheese sprinkled with dried oregano.  Delicious.

Oh and another plus point (as if you needed another one), is that it freezes really well.  So make an enormous dish and freeze half for another day.  Can't do better than that!

MOUSSAKA (serves 4)

Ingredients : 

2 large aubergines, sliced thinly
low calorie cooking spray
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 large onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
500g minced lamb
1 tsp ground cinnamon
half a tsp dried thyme
2 vine ripened tomatoes, diced
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp of lamb stock powder (or 1 lamb stock cube)
200ml red wine
1 tsp mint jelly
500ml carton of Lidl Italiamo Besciamella (or other equivalent)
2 egg yolks
1 tsp grated nutmeg
grated Grana Padano cheese for sprinkling.

Method :

Preheat the oven to 180degC/350degF/gas mark 4.

Line two large baking trays with silver foil and spray with cooking spray.  Place the aubergine slices onto the baking tray and spray liberally with cooking spray.  Sprinkle with sea salt & black pepper then bake for 20 minutes or until they feel cooked through when a knife is inserted. They should hopefully have some browned areas, which adds to the flavour.  Set aside to cool.

Heat the rapeseed oil in a large frying pan and add the onions & garlic. Cook gently for around 15 minutes, stirring often, until golden and soft. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the minced lamb to the pan and fry on the highest heat, stirring often, until browned and slightly caramelised. Remove some of the fat that will have accumulated (if necessary) and return the onions & garlic to the pan.

Reduce the heat to moderate and add the cinnamon, thyme, tomatoes and tomato puree.  Stir to combine and cook on for another 2-3 minutes.  Add the lamb stock powder or cube and the red wine.  Bring everything to the boil and cook briskly, stirring often, until the red wine is reduced by half. Season with the mint jelly, salt and pepper to taste.

Using a lasagne dish, layer the aubergine and mince, starting with mince.  You should have sufficient for three layers of mince and three of aubergine, finishing with an aubergine layer.

Tip the bechamel sauce into a bowl and stir in the egg yolks, nutmeg and some black pepper.  Pour the sauce evenly over the top of the aubergine & lamb mixture and level the top surface.  Sprinkle liberally with the grated Grana Padano cheese.

Now, at this stage, you can leave the Moussaka to one side until you are ready to bake it.  It will cope with being refrigerated until the next day, if you so wish.

Making sure the oven is pre-heated to 180degC/350degF/gas mark 4 and the Moussaka is at room temperature, bake the Moussaka for around 45-50 minutes, until the top surface is golden and the edges are bubbling.  Remove from the oven and allow to settle for some 5-10 minutes prior to serving.

Serve with chips (fries) or garlic bread and a side salad with olives and feta cheese.

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14 April 2018

Grilled Curry Chicken Skewers (well, they almost made it onto the skewers!)

Isn't it funny how I go for weeks not blogging a thing, then all of a sudden I have a mad rush of blood to the head and bingo, there's three blog posts in quick succession.  I have no idea why it happens, but it certainly seems to!

Now, these almost kebabs were so blinking tasty that they just had to be committed to blogdom straight away.  You won't have any idea the tussles I have had with yoghurt marinated chicken, but they have been almost on an epic scale of disappointment.  Hence, having had a taste of these little babies and realised that I'd reached nirvana, I just knew I had to write down the recipe and write it down fast - before it sank without a trace.

Now by rights, I should have laced these pieces of chicken onto kebab skewers and grilled them that way.  However, I discovered at the last minute that the majority of my little wooden skewers had left home, so they just went onto the baking tray and were grilled like that.  I don't think it harmed them any - in fact, I know it didn't.

Usually - and by "usually" I mean "in the past" - my attempts at yoghurt marinated chicken have been pallid at best and watery at worst.  However, in this new and exciting dawn, I am so excited to report that they were neither pallid, oh no, nor were they watery!  Well, they did exude a little water when being cooked, but that soon burned off.

They were deliciously spicy hot, with the warm curry spices singing along in harmony with the tang of lime juice and intense fruitiness of the tamarind.  The acidity of both yoghurt and lime juice had tenderised the chicken and the use of garlic granules meant there were no horrid lumps of half cooked garlic in the mix.  The slight charring on each piece brought out the best in the Tandoori spices and that spoonful of hot curry powder meant you were left in no doubt as to the worth of the sweet & fruity salad, along with the buttery rice.

I am seriously chuffed - maybe even "chuffed as nuts" as Dave Myers (he of Hairy Bikers fame) often says - with this recipe.  I might even need to cook it again, just to make sure it wasn't a fluke.  LOL  So if you give the recipe a whirl, do let me know how you get on with it!

Oh and incidentally - if you put your chicken onto the skewers, they'd be just brilliant cooked on a barbecue!


Ingredients :

4 dessert spoonfuls of full fat unflavoured Greek yoghurt
juice of half a lime
2 tsp rapeseed oil
1 tbsp tamarind sauce
4 heaped tsp tandoori curry powder
1 heaped tsp hot curry powder
half a tsp of ground turmeric
1 tsp of dried garlic granules
a pinch of sea salt
pinch of ground black pepper
2 large skinless and boneless chicken breasts, sliced across the grain.

Method :

Firstly, in a large bowl, make up the marinade by stirring together all the ingredients except the chicken breast slices.

Add the chicken slices and stir gently, ensuring that the marinade reaches every piece.

Cover with cling wrap and set aside in the fridge for a minimum of 4-5 hours.

To cook, cover a baking tray with silver foil and spray with a little cooking spray.

Using tongs, remove each piece of chicken from the marinade (taking as much of the marinade with each piece as wants to come) and lay it in a blob on the baking tray, leaving a little space in between each piece.  Alternatively, lace each piece onto a bamboo skewer that has been previously soaked in water (to stop it going up in flames) - not too tightly - and lay the skewer on the baking tray.

Distribute any leftover marinade over the pieces that need a little more coverage.

Grill, under a hot grill (or a hot broiler, if you're American), until each piece has begun to char slightly.  You don't want to have a lot of charring, just a few spots on each piece's high points.  Turn the pieces and grill again.

Serve with buttery savoury rice and a fresh, fruity salad.

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