Friday, 11 December 2015

No-Fuss Chicken Casserole

It's cold. It's winter. You're short on cash and need to feed at least three people something warming, filling and reasonably healthy. Casseroles and Stews are staple diet for us all at this time of year, and Chicken Casserole is really simple and tasty, and best of all, it can make use of all the leftover vegetables in your fridge.

You will need the following ingredients:

1kg Chicken Thighs or Drumsticks (or a mix of both)
1 large Leek (you can substitute an Onion if preferred)
2 large Carrots
3 sticks of Celery
4 Garlic Cloves
2 Chicken Stock Cubes
Rapeseed Oil

Utensils Needed:

Large Casserole Dish with Lid
Frying Pan or Cast Iron Skillet
Chopping Board
Chef's Knife

First off, preheat your oven to Gas Mark 4 (350° Fahrenheit / 180° Celsius). Secondly, it's entirely a matter of personal preference whether or not you bone the chicken thighs first - i tend not to, as i find chicken on the bone turns out much more tender. Either way - you want to fry them in a little Rapeseed oil in the Frying Pan, just brown them on either side - no need to cook them all the way through.

While they're sizzling away, chop up the rest of your vegetables. Don't slice them too finely - we're looking for nice, hearty chunks.


Once you've finished chopping things, the chicken should be just about ready to turn over. Give it another 2 minutes or so, then transfer the chicken to the casserole dish, taking care to keep the fat you've just used in the pan. Add the Garlic, Leek and Celery with the Thyme and a grind of salt to taste. SauteƩ for at least 5 minutes - until the Leek is starting to caramelise (excuse the fat splatters - i swear i cleaned the hob just minutes before this! :( )

With the veg on the go, all you need to do now, is boil the kettle, add the stock cubes to a measuring jug and decant 400ml of water into it. Stir until the cubes are entirely dissolved, and add to the casserole dish with the carrots.

Put the lid on, and stick it in the oven for 1 hour. You can leave it a little longer if you want less liquid, but you need to at least check it beforehand to make sure the sttock hasn't boiled away - i've made this mistake and nearly ended up ruining it!

At this point, all that's left is to serve. You don't need to add anything as a side dish, but if you're wanting to stretch it a little further - a little rice goes well with it.

As always, enjoy yourself, and enjoy the casserole! :D

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Sweet Potato & Cumin Soup

Okay, i know i've been kind of slacking on this one. I've had the writeup done for a while, but every time i've made it i've always forgotten to photograph the steps. However, i have now actually taken at least ONE photograph (this post will be updated with more, when i make it on the weekend), here is the recipe at last!

Soups are usually classed as a winter warmer, unless of course you count Gazpacho. However, in hot weather, when you don't want to eat anything too heavy or rich - this fits the bill wonderfully.

Sweet Potatoes are plentiful, cheap and you can easily feed four people for less than £5 with this simple recipe.

You will need the following ingredients:

Two Sweet Potatoes
One Large Onion
One Red Bell Pepper
Olive Oil
Smoked Paprika
Ground Cumin
Chicken or Vegetable Stock Cube

Utensils Needed:

Large Chefs Knife
Wooden Chopping Board
Pyrex Oven Dish with Lid or Cling Film
Large Saucepan
Potato Masher
Hand Blender

To prepare the potatoes and skin them with ease - slice them through the middle and place face down in the oven dish. Add around 2cm of water to the dish and cover. Microwave on full power (700w) for 13 minutes. You may need to do this in two batches if your microwave/dishes are small enough.

Once removed from the microwave, the skin should be easy to remove - simply pinch the skin on one end and peel backwards. Leave the potatoes to cool a little and move on to the onion.

Chop the onion as fine as you can, and add to the saucepan with a tablespoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of ground cumin and a teaspoon of smoked paprika. Sweat the onions until they're soft and translucent & add a pinch of salt to taste.

At this point, add the potatoes and mash them.

Put the stock cube in a jug and add a litre of boiling water. Dissolve the stock cube and add to the pan with the potatoes and onion. Stir thoroughly and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Take off the heat and blend to a smooth consistency with the hand blender before serving.

For a nice finishing touch, grill some streaky bacon until it's crispy, then chop up finely, sprinkle on top and add a grate or two of parmesan and a teaspoon of single cream.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Smoked Pancetta wrapped Chicken Breast & Roasted Mediterranean Vegetables

It's been a while since i've posted - after all the extravagance at xmas, I fancied a long break from blogging, call it a severe lack of motivation from an overindulgence in roast duck!

Right now, the days are getting longer and warmer and soon it'll be acceptable to head back out onto the patio for a meal. This dish stems from my love of roasted peppers, and the desire to do something a little different with them. The quantities of ingredients can all be easily purchased for around £12 from your local supermarket (in my case, Aldi), and will feed four people with ease.

You will need the following ingredients:

Four Mixed Bell Peppers (Red/Yellow/Orange)
Two Courgettes (Zucchini)
A large, waxy Lemon
Cherry or Piccolo Tomatoes on the vine
Four Chicken Breasts
Two packs of Smoked Pancetta
Olive Oil
Garlic Paste

Utensils Needed:

Chefs Knife
Wooden Chopping Board
Three Ceramic or Pyrex Glass Dishes
Fine Cheese Grater or Lemon zester
Glass Jar

First off, pre-heat your oven to Gas Mark 7 (425° Fahrenheit / 220° Celsius) - as with the lamb breast recipe from last year, you need it as hot as you can get - you do after all, want nice roast veggies.

Honestly, there's not a lot of prep required, but to start with, make up a simple dressing. Get a clean, empty glass jar and add two heaped teaspoons of garlic paste to it. Add two tablespoons of olive oil, put the lid on and shake vigorously.

Chop the peppers in half, remove the stalk, white parts & seeds. Cut them in half lengthwise, and then laterally, so you end up with sizeable triangular chunks. Top & tail your courgettes, and slice into half inch thick chunks. Slice too thin and they'll burn, slice too thick and they won't cook properly.

Take the lemon and remove the zest with either a lemon zester, or the fine blades on a cheese grater - just make sure not to get any pith in with the zest. Once zested, quarter the lemon and add it, and the courgettes to the dish along with the peppers. Mix through to distribute evenly and place your vine tomatoes on top. Drizzle around 3/4 of your garlic oil over the veggies. Sprinkle over a level teaspoon of thyme, the lemon zest & season it with a big grind of sea salt.

At this point, take the chicken breasts, and ensure they're all reasonably equally sized. If you have a large chicken breast that dwarfs the others - halve it. Wrap the strips of pancetta around the chicken breasts (2 strips per breast, as a general rule). Place in a separate dish (or if like me you don't have the oven space, two smaller dishes).

You should end up with something that looks like this:

Place in the oven for 15 minutes, at which point turn the temperature down to Gas Mark 5 (375° Fahrenheit / 190° Celsius) and cook for a further 30 minutes. In the meantime, I like to prepare some light, fluffy basmati rice to accompany it. All in all, it should take you around an hour from start to finish.

It should look like this, when removing from the oven:

As you can see from the plate, that's more than enough for one person!

So in short, something incredibly easy to prepare that's delicious and not altogether unhealthy for you - i'd call that a winner!