Recipe: Summery chicken casserole

Okay, so the not-so-good British summer limps along with odd sunshine appearances making us briefly happy before plunging us back into the inevitable rain and grey-sky-punctuated days of July. So while I’d love to be lounging in my garden with the barbecue sizzling, practical considerations (barbecues aren’t so much fun when it’s raining) mean that my cooking mind is heading in a different direction…a stew direction.

Today I decided I needed to come up with a satisfying chicken casserole that also has a taste of summer about it. The flavour combination of honey, orange juice and tomatoes is beautifully light and zesty and works perfectly with the tender chicken thighs and creamy butter beans.

HONEY AND ORANGE CHICKEN WITH BUTTER BEANS AND TOMATOES

Serves 6

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The final dish topped with chopped parsley

900g boneless chicken thighs, chopped into generous bite-sized pieces

2 tbsp olive oil

2 onions, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, crushed

4cm piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped

4 tbsp runny honey

Half tsp saffron strands

1 tsp cinnamon powder

1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes in juice

5 tbsps passata

1 litre chicken stock

2 x 400g cans of butter beans

Juice of 1 orange

Salt and pepper

Two handfuls flat leafed parsley, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based casserole dish or pan on the stove. Fry the onion, garlic and ginger over a medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent.

Add the honey, saffron, cinnamon, tomatoes, pasta and stock. Bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the chicken pieces. Season to taste. Cook for about 20mins on a low simmer.

Add the orange juice and butter beans and cook for another 15 minutes on low, until the chicken is tender and everything else is thoroughly heated through.

Sprinkle generously with chopped parsley.

Serve with rice and vegetables.

I got my chicken from The Black Farmer. The company was set up by Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones and produces gluten-free products that are also RSPCA assured which means the company has a vision for all farm animals to have a good life and be treated with compassion and respect. The products are also of the highest quality, these thighs were packed with flavour.

TBF_FR_thigh-filletsThe Black Farmer produces a range of sausages, burgers, free range chickens, bacon, eggs and meatballs. Much of the range is available online at Ocado and you’ll also find the beef burgers at Asda and the chickens at selected Budgens.

Find out more at theblackfarmer.com

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The chicken stew simmers on the stove

Recipe: The classic that is Chicken a la King

At long last I’m back in the kitchen. When I was deciding what to cook for dinner I suddenly had a desire for some chicken a la king. A dish I remember well from early visits to restaurants as a teenager (oh how exotic it seemed then). I’ve tried to find out where it originated and, as with many classic dishes, there are many different theories.

My favourite (and therefore the one I’m going with is that it was created by Chef George Greenwald, at the Brighten Beach Hotel in New York in the early 1900s. He prepared a special chicken dish one evening for the owners, Mr and Mrs Clark King II. It was such a success that it’s said the next day it was added to the menu as Chicken à la King for the princely sum of $1.25.

I love its simplicity and creaminess as do people of all ages. It was a favourite of my youngest nephew Cuan’s for a while, when he regularly (and very cutely) asked if he could have Chicken on a King for dinner.

My recipe uses cream, but you could make a basic white sauce instead using milk if you’re looking for a lower fat option. I also added peas, which I don’t think is traditional, as I wanted a bit of green in the mix and their sweetness and bite added something extra.

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A satisfying bowl of Chicken a la King

Serves 2

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks

Juice of 1 lemon

170ml double cream

2 tbsps sunflower oil

1 onion, peeled and sliced into rounds

200g mushrooms, sliced

2 tbsps butter

2 tbsps flour

250ml chicken stock

Handful of fresh thyme, leaves only

100g peas

Put the chopped chicken into a plastic bag and pour in the lemon juice and double cream. Mix thoroughly, seal the bag and leave to marinate for two hours.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion. Cook on a low heat for 10-15 minutes until the onions are soft.

Add the butter and the mushrooms, stir through and cook over a low heat for another 10 minutes.

Sprinkle over the flour and stir through.

Pour in the chicken stock and stir until everything blends together and thickens.

Add the chicken from the bag and squeeze all the cream and juice into the mixture. Stir through.

Add the thyme leaves and stir through.

Cook for 15 mins, then add the peas.

Then cook for another 10 mins until the chicken is done.

Serve on a bed of rice.

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The creamy mixture straight off the stove

I’m glad I was reminded of this delicious dish, it’s one that’s now definitely part of my regular repertoire.

Do you have any classic recipes that you love? I’d love to try them, do get in touch.

 

Recipe: Cheesy garlic chicken with roast vegetables

Okay, it’s fair to say that I cook a lot, and I do love it. But I do try to keep it as simple as possible, unless I’m heading into one of my full-on cook-all-weekend extravaganzas where the fridge is bursting with ingredients and my head with ideas!

Most of my recipes are quick and easy. Like this delicious one-pan dinner I made last night. I love cooking all in one dish, so little washing up. Vary this dish by using different vegetables, different herbs, even different meat. It’s light and delicious with a lovely mix of the flavours of lemons, oregano and garlicky cheese. Don’t worry if some of the cheese leaks out into the pan (as it has here), it’s all meant to be served together anyway.

Serve with a baked potato for a more substantial meal.

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Flavours of the Mediterranean all in one pan

Serves 2

2 chicken breasts, skin on

50g soft cheese with garlic, I used Philadelphia garlic and herb

1 red onion, quartered

1 courgette, sliced into chunks

1 yellow pepper, cored, seeded and chopped into quarters

1 orange pepper, cored, seeded and chopped into quarters

1 lemon, quartered

1 tbsp dried oregano

2 tbsps olive oil

Make a small pocket under the skin of the chicken breast by sliding a sharp knife under the skin. Stuff it with the soft cheese and wrap the skin securely around.

Add the peppers, onion, olive oil and half the oregano into the roasting tin and roast at 180C for 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and add the courgette and chicken breasts. Squeeze the lemon juice over the chicken and vegetables and add the lemon quarters to the tin.

Return to the oven and cook for another 20-25 mins until the chicken is done.

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My new Stellar James Martin Roaster is perfect for one-pan dishes like this and for my favourite Sunday roast. It’s made of heavy grade carbon steel for even heat distribution, is non-stick and really easy to clean. Find out more about James Martin’s range at www.stellarcookware.co.uk

Recipe: Asian-style chicken with noodles and a crunchy salad

I love Asian flavours and experiment a lot with different marinades. This one seems to have a lot of ingredients in it, but I have to say it’s one of the nicest I’ve come up with. The chicken was bursting with flavour and the sesame seeds made the perfect finishing touch.

A quick and easy weekday dinner (just remember to marinade the chicken overnight) that is totally delicious.

Serves 2

Luscious chicken sprinkled with sesame seeds

Luscious chicken sprinkled with sesame seeds

For the marinade

Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsps chopped ginger
3 tbsps soy sauce
2 tbsps sesame oil
2 tbsps runny honey
1 tbsp mirin
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce

2 chicken breasts, sliced into  strips

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsps sesame seeds, dry fried

 

200g rice noodles, soaked in boiling water, following packet instructions

 

For the salad

Half a small cucumber, peeled and chopped into chunks
8 radishes, sliced

For the dressing

2 tbsps olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
1 dried chilli, chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce

Mix together all the ingredients for the marinade and place the chicken strips into it, making sure everything is well coated. Leave for at least three hours, overnight ideally.

Make the salad by mixing together all the ingredients for the dressing and pouring over the cucumber and radishes.

Soak the noodles as per the instructions on the packet.

Fry the chicken strips in a hot frying pan for about 10 minutes until browned and cooked through.

Drain the noodles and divide between two bowls, spoon a few spoonfuls of the marinade over the noodles. Top with the chicken strips and sprinkle the sesame seeds over the chicken. Serve with the salad.

The crunchy salad with the zesty dressing

The crunchy salad with the zesty dressing

 

Recipes: Two great dishes with Parma ham

Okay, I admit it, I’m a bit of a ham fanatic! There’s always ham of some sort in my fridge and when I go to Italy or Spain I dream about lugging home a whole leg, complete with its special frame and knife so I can nibble freshly sliced delicacies at my leisure. As it’s not the most practical of ideas – have you ever tried lifting one of them, not to mention how long would it take for me to get through a whole leg on my own – there’s no tempting ham on tap in my kitchen. Of course that doesn’t mean I can’t eat it to my heart’s delight.

I went to Parma in Italy a couple of years ago where there was a delicious aroma of ham in the air, I swear there was. The platters I dug into there were truly sensational. So I’m very excited to try cooking with this wonderful meat – a good reminder that while it certainly tastes amazing simply sliced and devoured, it’s also a fabulous ingredient to cook with. Try these yummy dishes.

Fresh Tagliatelle with Black Pepper, Truffle Oil,
Parma Ham and Parmigiano Reggiano

pasta

This wonderfully simple pasta dish is so full of flavour

Serves 2

100g ‘00’ pasta flour

1 medium egg

Pinch of salt

Black pepper

Truffle oil

4 slices of Parma Ham

4 tbsps of Parmigiano Reggiano

1. Place the pasta flour into a small bowl. Make a well and crack an egg into the middle with a pinch of salt. Using a fork, stir the egg and gradually bring in the flour a little at a time until you get a messy dough. Use your hands to press the dough together and kneed on a clean surface for a couple of minutes until you have smooth and firm dough. Add a little water if too dry, or extra flour if too wet

2. Using a pasta machine, make sure the thickness setting is on highest (should be No.10 on most machines). Roll your dough through this setting and then fold the dough in half. Pass it through again and then fold it in half again and follow this procedure 10 times until you have a very smooth dough. Now roll the dough through each setting twice until you get down to No 2 or 1. Your pasta should be very thin now

3. You can now cut your pasta into the shape of your choice. If you have a Tagliatelle cutter feed the thin sheet of pasta through it and lay the pasta on a tray lined with baking paper. Blanch in salted water for 1-11/2 minutes or until cooked and slightly al dente. Toss with truffle oil, and top with Parma ham and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

If you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own pasta (though it is delicious and very therapeutic), simply cook pasta according to the packet instructions and follow the second half of Step 3. Simple.

Roast Breast of Chicken stuffed with Tarragon and wrapped in Parma Ham.
Salad of New Potatoes, Spring Onions, Cress and Purple Sprouting Broccoli

chicken

This combination of ingredients takes chicken to another level

Serves 2

35g full fat cream cheese

1 small onion diced and cooked off in a little olive oil

1 small hand-full of freshly chopped Tarragon

2 chicken fillets

2 slices of Parma Ham

2 pints chicken stock

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

120g baby new potatoes

4 spring onions sliced

1 tub fresh cress

120g purple sprouting broccoli 

1. To make the stuffing, mix the cream-cheese, onion and tarragon together with a little olive oil and add pepper to taste; set aside

2. For the salad, wash the potatoes thoroughly and boil until soft. Blanch the broccoli. Mix extra virgin olive oil with the potatoes cress and spring onions. Add the broccoli to the top of the salad after seasoning; set aside

3. Cut a pocket in the chicken breast fillets and add a teaspoon of the stuffing; close-up the pocket Now wrap a slice of Parma ham around each breast and drizzle with olive oil; lightly season with salt and pepper. Roast in a pre-heated oven at 170C/Gas mark 5 for twenty-five minutes

4. Take 1.5L of chicken stock and reduce to 8 tablespoons /120ml

5. When the chicken is cooked, take out of oven, rest for 5 minutes. Place on top of the salad and drizzle with jus.

Thanks to The Underground Cookery School for the recipes. 

undergroundcookeryschool.com

Chicken, litchi and cucumber salad

Another fantastically easy salad. I had roast chicken left in the fridge from the weekend so came up with a combination of light, summery ingredients that I could match with them. A delicious combo.

Thai-style chicken salad on my new personally designed plate

Thai-style chicken salad on my new personally designed plate

10 litchis, peeled, destoned and halved

1 small cucumber, cut into ribbons using a vegetable peeler

1 packet of microleaves, pea sprouts or watercress

Leftover roast chicken, shredded

A large handful of cashew nuts, dry fried until browned

For the dressing

3 tsp lime juice

1 tsp sesame oil

120ml coconut milk

1 tsp sugar

1 stick lemongrass, cut into quarters

1 dried chilli, crumbled

To make the dressing pour all the ingredients into a pan and bring to the boil. Remove the pan from the heat immediately and leave to cool. It’s good if it sits for at least an hour to let all the flavours

To make the salad simply layer your leaves, cucumber and litchis and top with your shredded chicken.

Pour over the dressing, making sure to drain the lemon grass pieces out.

Sprinkle the chopped, fried cashew nuts over the top and serve.

I painted my plate on a visit to the Clay Cafe in Hout Bay. You choose from an array of unfired crockery like bowls, cups, plates and vases, pick from a wide selection of colourful paints and create your own masterpiece. It’s so peaceful and a wonderful place  to spend a morning, totally therapeutic and addictive…I could have stayed all day. They serve great coffees, too and there’s a playground if the kids get bored with painting before the adults do (believe me, it’s highly likely!). Find out more at www.claycafe.co.za

I love my new plate!

I love my new plate!