Chicken Melt with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pesto

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IMG_20150529_124321[1] 29/05/2015

Grilled cheese sandwiches are one of my absolute favourite lunches at the moment. They’re so simple to do, you can put in whatever cheeses and extras and bread you like, they’re gooey and oozy and cheesy and warming.

This is a particular favourite of mine at the moment. Fresh pesto with oozing mozzarella, succulent chicken and salty sweet tomatoes encased in fresh crunchy ciabatta. Yum.

Use small, fresh mozzarella balls (bocconcini) or cut slices from a larger ball of fresh mozzarella for ideal results. If you absolutely cannot find fresh mozzarella then you can substitute it for whole milk mozzarella cheese that you grate yourself. Please don’t use the grated, bagged stuff. It is dusted with a powder to keep it from clumping. This also keeps it from melting into that creamy, gooey, stringy mozzarella we love so dearly.

(Makes 6 sandwiches)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of excess fat
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 ciabatta rolls, halved as for sandwiches
  • 6 tablespoons Sun-Dried Tomatoes
  • 6 tablespoons pesto,homemade or shop bought
  • 6 slices fresh mozzarella (about 6oz)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Butterfly the chicken breasts lightly bash them with a rolling to pin to flatten slightly then sprinkle both sides generously with salt and pepper and a little rapeseed oil. Pan fry over a medium heat until just cooked through then remove to a board to rest. You may need to do this in batches. Don’t crowd the pan.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the grill to medium. Place the sun dried tomatoes over one half of each Ciabatta then top with slices of mozzarella. When the grill is up to temperature, lay out all the ciabatta rolls crust side down. Grill the rolls lightly until the cheese begins to melt and bread becomes slightly crispy.
  3. When the cheese is hot all the way through, remove the rolls from the grill then slice the chicken and portion onto the rolls. Spread pesto onto the plain half of each roll then sandwich everything together for a gooey feast.
  4. If desired, slice the sandwich in half on the diagonal. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature.

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Spicy Chilli Meatballs

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IMG_20150522_213309[1] 22/05/2015

A different take on a classic chilli with spiced meatballs in a smokey sauce with creamy, zingy avocado to top, this recipe is a real crowd pleaser.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 red onion, halved and sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 large bell pepper, quartered, deseeded and diced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2-3 tsp chipotle chilli paste
  • 300ml reduced-salt chicken stock
  • 400g can cherry tomatoes
  • 400g can black beans or red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 avocado, stoned, peeled and chopped
  • juice ½ lime

For the meatballs:

  • 500g pack turkey breast mince
  • 50g porridge oats
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • small bunch coriander, chopped, stalks and leaves kept separate
  • 1 tsp rapeseed oil

Method:

  1. First make the meatballs. Tip the mince into a bowl, add the oats, spring onions, spices and the coriander stalks then lightly knead the ingredients together until well mixed. Shape into 12 ping-pong- sized balls. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan, add the meatballs and cook, turning them frequently, until golden. Remove from the pan.
  2. Tip the onion and garlic into the pan with the pepper and stir-fry until softened. Stir in the cumin and chilli paste, then pour in the stock. Return the meatballs to the pan and cook, covered, over a low heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and beans, and cook, uncovered, for a few minutes more. Toss the avocado chunks in the lime juice and serve the meatballs topped with the avocado and coriander leaves. Serve with rice.

Garlic & Herb Flatbreads

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IMG_20150518_221024[1] 20/10/2015

Bread that requires no kneading, no waiting to rise and takes just minutes to cook? Oh yes! And the garlic and herb butter is uber simple and tastes amazing. This bread goes so well with so many dishes. Bubbly, charred, light and fluffy bread covered with garlicky, buttery yumminess. No need to thank me.

Makes 6

Ingredients:

For the flatbreads:

  • 350g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
  • sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 350g natural yoghurt

For the garlic and herb butter:

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • a bunch of fresh soft herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, tarragon, basil, dill
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • A pinch of salt

Method:

  1. Add all the flatbread ingredients to a mixing bowl and mix together with a spoon and then use clean hands to pat and bring everything together.
    2. Dust a clean work surface with flour and then tip out the dough.
    3. Knead for a minute or so to bring it all together (this isn’t a traditional bread recipe, so you don’t need to knead it for long – just enough time to bring everything together).
    4. Put the dough into a floured-dusted bowl and cover with a plate, then leave aside.
    5. For the garlic butter, peel the garlic cloves and grate them finely.
    6. Pick the herb leaves onto a chopping board and finely chop them, discarding the stalks.
    7. Melt the butter in a small pan over a medium heat, then stir through the garlic and chopped herbs and set aside.
    8. Dust a clean work surface and rolling pin with flour, then divide the dough in half and then divide each half into 6 equal-sized pieces (roughly the size of a golf ball).
    9. With your hands, pat and flatten the dough, then use a rolling pin to roll each piece into 12cm rounds, roughly 2mm to 3mm thick.
    10. Use a knife to cut 6 lines into the centre of each round, leaving about 3cm at each end.
    11. Place a griddle pan on a high heat, then once hot, cook each one for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until bar-marked and puffed up, turning with tongs.
    12. Brush the flatbreads all over with herby garlic butter as they come off the griddle, then pile onto a serving board so everyone can dig in and help themselves.

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Tip: If you don’t need so many breads or you need even more, the great thing about this recipe is you use half the yogurt to half the flour so adjust the weight accordingly. 100g each of yoghurt and flour will give you 2 flatbreads as a side to a meal.

Rock Cakes

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IMG_20150519_102720[1] 19/05/2015

Who doesn’t like moist, crumbly, lightly spiced rock cakes? …Apart from coeliacs. These really are so simple to make and taste absolutely delicious. They are definitely best eaten warm from the oven spread with a little bit of butter and even with some jam. The rocky exterior is crunchy and the inside is fluffy and studded with juicy fruit. For a richer rock cake use the ‘luxury’ type of dried fruit mix, with cherries and apricots as well as raisins, currants, sultanas and chopped candied lemon and orange peel. I used 50g sultanas and 50g of chopped mixed peel as that is what I had in my cupboard and they turned out beautifully.

Makes 10

Ingredients:

  • 225g Self-raising flour
  • ½ tsp Ground mixed spice
  • 65g Granulated sugar
  • 85g Unsalted butter, chilled and diced
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g Mixed dried fruit and peel
  • 1 Medium egg
  • 2 Tbsp Milk
  • 1 Tbsp Demerara sugar for sprinkling

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Sift the flour and mixed spice and salt into a mixing bowl. Add the diced butter and rub into the flour until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the sugar and dried fruit with a wooden spoon. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg with the milk until combined, then stir just enough into the fruit mixture to bind to a very firm, stiff dough – it’s important that the dough holds its shape, but if there are dry crumbs at the bottom of the bowl and the dough won’t stick together, add more milk, a teaspoon at a time.
  3. Divide the dough into 10 and spoon on to the prepared baking tray in heaped peaky mounds (to look like rocks), spaced well apart. Sprinkle with the Demerara sugar.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the cakes are a good golden brown and firm to the touch.
  5. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool. Eat warm or at room temperature, the same day.

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Cheesy Stuffed Jackets

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IMG_20150518_221237[1] 18/05/2015

This is almost too simple to even bother posting. A regular go to recipe that is filling, cheap, easy, healthy and most importantly, really tasty. Just taking a little extra effort to mix some goodies into the potato and twice bake turns a run of the mill baked potato into a fresh and delicious meal.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 Large baking potatoes
  • 1 ½ oz mature cheddar, coarsely grated
  • 50g garlic and herb Boursin
  • 1 Tbsp milk or cream
  • Salt and ground white pepper
  • 3-4 Spring onions, thinly sliced

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Bake the potatoes in the oven for an hour or until fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside.
  2. After that, put the Boursin into a medium-sized bowl and cut the potatoes in half lengthways.
  3. Protecting your hands with a cloth, scoop out the centres of the potatoes into the bowl containing the Boursin, add the milk or cream and spring onions and season well with salt and freshly milled black pepper.
  4. Now quickly mash or whisk everything together, then pile the whole lot back into the potato skins.
  5. Now scatter the grated Cheddar on top, pressing it down lightly with your hand, then place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until the edges are golden brown and the cheese is bubbling.
  6. Serve with a nice crisp salad and baked beans. If you’re anything like me then a baked potato without beans is like The Bible without Jesus! Enjoy.

Mixed Black Dal (Urad Dal)

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IMG_20150514_222332[1] 17/05/2015

I have a taste for lentils at the moment and teamed with my love of all things Indian, lentil curry seems a great choice. Lentils have a bit of a reputation for being boring and bland but each variety has it’s own subtle flavour and this mix creates a wholesome and earthy taste bought to life with fresh ginger, spices and chillies.

You can serve this as a side dish to a meat curry but it is plenty tasty enough to stand up on its own. It is great served with chapati, roti or paratha.

(Serves 8 as a side dish)

Ingredients:

  • 100g black lentils, also known as whole urad dal with skin on
  • 100g mung beans, also known as whole mung dal with skin
  • 100g chana dal, or the inner layer of black chickpeas split in half
  • 100g moth beans
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cm root ginger, peeled and finely sliced
  • 3 tsp hot green chillies, finely chopped
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 1¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 4 tsp garam masala

Method:

  1. The night before you want to serve the dal, rinse all four types of dal well then combine them in a heavy-based pan about 25cm in diameter. Pour in 2 litres of water and leave to soak overnight.
  2. The next day, place the pan over a high heat and add the onions, ginger, chilli, butter, salt and turmeric. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer at a gentle bubble for about 2½ hours, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the garam masala, mix thoroughly, cover and continue cooking for 15 minutes. Serve immediately.
  4. For an extra kick, heat some oil in a small pan, add cumin seeds and fry for 10 seconds and then add two whole dried red chillies and fry until they darken. Add to the mixed black dal for extra flavour.

Citrus Curd Muffins

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IMG_20150514_222245[1] 15/05/2015

Here is a lovely light, zingy and fresh muffin recipe perfect for a summer treat. These easy orange sponge cupcakes are finished with a crunchy, zesty sugar topping and conceal a lemon curd centre. (Makes 9).

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Ingredients:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 140g white caster sugar, plus 1 ½ tbsp
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange (about 85ml juice)
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g pot plain yogurt
  • 1 large egg
  • 9 tsp lemon curd

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan and line a muffin tin with 9 paper cases. Tip the flour, 140g sugar, the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl, and mix together with a fork.
  2. Stir together ½ tsp orange zest and 1 ½ Tbsp sugar and set aside. Whisk together the orange juice and remaining zest, the oil, vanilla, yogurt and egg with a fork until well blended. Lightly stir into the flour mixture until just combined. Fill the muffin cases about 2/3 full. There will be some mix left over. Put 1 tsp curd in the centre of each and just cover with the remaining muffin mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes until firm and pale golden.
  3. Remove from the oven and sprinkle over the orange sugar. Leave to cool on a wire rack. These will keep for 4 days in the fridge – return to room temperature to serve.

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